India and Pakistan Growl over Kashmir

By Herbert G. Hagerty. Herbert G. Hagerty, who resides in Washington, D. C., is a recently retired Foreign Service officer who served . | The Christian Science Monitor, May 8, 1990 | Go to article overview

India and Pakistan Growl over Kashmir


Herbert G. Hagerty. Herbert G. Hagerty, who resides in Washington, D. C., is a recently retired Foreign Service officer who served ., The Christian Science Monitor


WAR clouds may be gathering between India and Pakistan as a result of unchecked student violence in the Indian state of Kashmir. Military confrontation between the two regional "superpowers," however brief, would be a war that few South Asians want but that many believe is unavoidable.

Problems involving Kashmir touch sensitive Hindu-Muslim communal nerve endings in India and Pakistan. Their dispute over Kashmir goes back to the 1947 partition of Britain's former domains into the two nations of Pakistan - explicitly Muslim - and India - avowedly secular but heavily Hindu in numbers.

Although its population of 5 million was heavily Muslim, and despite an initial desire for independence, Kashmir, a princely state the size of Minnesota, acceded to India in 1948 while under attack from infiltrators from Pakistan. The decision was made by Kashmir's then rulers, a Hindu maharajah (father of the late Indian ambassador to Washington), and his Muslim prime minister, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the legendary "Lion of Kashmir."

In the years since, India and Pakistan have fought three brief wars, each growing out of unresolved residue of the 1947 partition. Twice the issue was Kashmir, where Pakistan forced a test of arms; in all three conflicts, Pakistan was the loser, as all agree it would be again. Today, each country controls about a third of the territory of Kashmir (the rest is mainly under Chinese rule). India's portion contains most of what is worth having in the state, including the storied Vale of Kashmir, known for its houseboats, scenic beauty, handicrafts, and beautiful women.

A plebiscite that the United Nations, in 1949, hoped would resolve the problem was never held, due mainly to Indian unwillingness to accept what could have been a dangerous precedent to the process by which rulers of most of the other princely states decided to join India. More than 40 years later, Indian and Pakistani troops remain entrenched along a UN-monitored "line of control" stretching from the plains to the snows of the high Himalayas.

The current crisis grows out of deeply rooted Kashmiri disaffection with India, accented by what has become chronic governmental instability in Srinagar. New Delhi took over direct rule some time back, using constitutional provisions under which India's parliament can directly govern a state when local governance fails. Violence erupted last December; it has continued despite vigorous repression and curfews. …

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