Perspective: State Caught in Middle of Bitter Battle for Power; as the International Community Attempts to Broker a Peace Deal between India and Pakistan, Richard McComb Analyses the Causes of the Conflict

The Birmingham Post (England), May 30, 2002 | Go to article overview

Perspective: State Caught in Middle of Bitter Battle for Power; as the International Community Attempts to Broker a Peace Deal between India and Pakistan, Richard McComb Analyses the Causes of the Conflict


Byline: Richard McComb

Amillion troops from India and Pakistan are lined up along the disputed Line of Control in Kashmir. Troops trade fire every day and the two nations stand on the brink of all-out war as international statesmen launch a fevered round of diplomacy in an attempt to stop a nuclear conflagration.

India and Pakistan are feared by their neighbours and revered by their people for their nuclear capabilities and yet exact details about their arsenals and the accuracy of their warheads remain an unknown quantity.

The reasons for the stand-off are firmly rooted in the past and flow from the collapse of the British Empire. Since that time, there have been bloody conflicts but there are real fears this time that the antics of both nations have moved beyond gesture politics and sabre rattling.

As pressure mounts in the region for a conclusion to the crisis, the questions remains: who will act first?

The Kashmir question The bitter rivalry between India and Pakistan over Kashmir dates back more than 50 years to when the British began to break up the Empire.

India gained independence in August 1947, which led to the partitioning of the sub-continent, sparking huge population displacements and rioting.

Families and communities literally found themselves on the wrong side of the line as a new border was drawn up between Hindu-dominated India and the new Muslim state of Pakistan.

Nowhere was tension more heightened than in Kashmir in the Himalayas.

Pakistan said that, with its majority Muslim population, Kashmir should have become part of Pakistan.

Indian rulers claimed Kashmir on the basis of legality, pointing to the Instrument of Accession signed by the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh, in October 1947. This effectively gave India authority for defence, foreign affairs and communication.

Indian troops were sent to protect Kashmir and they were fighting the first conflict with Pakistan by May 1948.

Kashmir's special status with India was confirmed in 1950, when it was given greater autonomy than other Indian states. Pakistan insists Kashmiris should be allowed decide their own fate by way of a plebiscite, opting between India and Pakistan, in the wake of several UN resolutions. India is opposed to a plebiscite and points to the Simla Agreement of 1972 which sought to resolve the problem through bilateral talks. New Delhi also maintains elections have shown that people living in Kashmir wanted to remain under Indian control.

Animosity between the two rivals has spilt over into three wars: two conflicts were staged in 1947/48 and 1965 over Kashmir, and a third was fought in 1971 over independence for Bangladesh.

The two nations have pulled back from the brink as recently as 1999 after incursions into Indian-controlled Kashmir by Pakistan. Pakistani forces finally backed down along the Line of Control, which had been established in January 1949 after the first Kashmir war.

The Line was later modified as part of the Simla Agreement. It passes through a mountainous region with Indianadministered Kashmir to the east and south and Pakistani-administered Kashmir to the north and west. Pakistan administers about a third of Kashmir.

Indian-run Kashmir has a population of nine million, falling into the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistani-administered Kashmir comprises a population of three million and is called 'Azad' (Free) Kashmir by Pakistan.

India has accused Pakistan of arming and training militant separatists since 1989 although Pakistan claims its support is purely moral. It wants Pakistan to recognise its claim to its slice of Kashmir while Pakistan's ultimate goal is to take control of Kashmir.

The prospects of war The very real threat of war between the two nuclear powers has prompted the international community to mobilise statesmen in a desperate round of talks. …

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