Nation profile


General information
Jammu and Kashmir: 12,541,302 (2011); Azad Kashmir: 4,095,366 (2017); Gilgit-Baltistan: 1,800,000 (2015); Aksai Chin and Transkarakoram: almost uninhabited
351,548 km2 (Jammu and Kashmir: 222,236; Azad Kashmir: 13,297; Gilgit-Baltistan: 72,971; Aksai Chin: 37,244; Transkarakoram: 5,800)
Government and Parliament of the State of Jammu and Kashmir (India). Government and Parliament of the provinces of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan (Pakistan).
Major cities
Srinagar, Jammu, Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, Gilgit
State administration
India, Pakistan and China
Territorial languages
Kashmiri, Urdu, Dogri, Pahari, Mirpuri, Gojri, Hindko, others
Official languages
Major religion
Islam (Sunni, Shia and Ismaili), Hinduism, Buddhism

Kashmir is a former princely state in the north of the Indian subcontinent and the Himalayas, now partitioned between India, Pakistan and China. A very mountainous country, to the north it borders the Karakorum massif. Indus River, originating in neighbouring Tibet, crosses Kashmir south-east to north-west.

The name “Kashmir”, or sometimes “Historic Kashmir”, encompasses the entire former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, which existed between 1846 and 1952. Quite a diverse territory in terms of its human composition, Kashmir is divided into six main sectors: three of them fall under Indian control, namely the Kashmir Valley (of Kashmiri ethnic majority and Muslim), Jammu (mostly Dogra and Punjabi and mainly Hindu by religion) and Ladakh (of ethnic Tibetan majority and Buddhist and Muslim religion). The three zones, altogether, form the Indian federated state of Jammu and Kashmir. Another two sectors are under control of Pakistan: Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan (both containing a range of diverse Muslim majority peoples), each of them being a first-level administrative division of Pakistan. The sixth sector, under the control of China, is made up by the mostly depopulated areas of Aksai Chin and Transkarakoram, which are administered as a territory of Xinjiang Uigur (East Turkestan).

The princely state of Jammu and Kashmir was created in the mid-19th century after an agreement between the United Kingdom and the prince of Jammu. The territory remained an associate state of British India until 1947, when the United Kingdom approved the subcontinent’s partition into two new sovereign countries: India and Pakistan. Although the majority of the population of the princely state was Muslim, the sovereign of Jammu and Kashmir, maharaja Hari Singh, decided to merge his state with India. Pakistan did not accept, and the first India-Pakistan war broke out (1947-1948). As a result, the territory of the former princely state became divided between both belligerents, to this day. At the end of the 1980s, a revolt against India broke out in the Kashmir Valley which, with periods of more or less intensity, has remained until today.


Kashmir is a linguistically diverse country, which is particularly true of Gilgit-Baltistan. The language with the most speakers is Kashmiri, predominantly in the Kashmir Valley and in some parts of Jammu. Despite being the most widespread language, it does not enjoy official status nor it enjoys deep implementation in the educational system. Other languages spoken in different parts of Kashmir are Pahari, Dogri, Ladakhi, Shina, Balti and Hindko. Urdu is only official language, both in India- and Pakistan-controlled sectors.

Politics and institutions

Except for Aksai Chin, the entire territory historical Kashmir is included in sub-state administrative entities that enjoy some kind of partial self-government, all of them having their own elected assemblies. The Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir considers that its territory corresponds totally to the former princely state; the same can be said of the Pakistani territory of Azad Kashmir.

Within Jammu and Kashmir, alongside Indian-wide parties, several Kashmiri parties exists, which can be broadly divided into two main streams, one being pro-autonomy and the other one pro-independence. Opinion polls made in the 21st century have shown that a solid pro-independence majority exists in the Kashmir Valley. In Ladakh, a movement demanding separation from Jammu and Kashmir and turning the area into a union territory of India also exists.

In Gilgit-Baltistan, the Democatic Alliance regards the territory as Pakistani-occupied and demands the implementation of real self-government; some sectors demand the establishment of an independent state.

(Last updated March 2018.)