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Why Kashmir?

By Fram Dinshaw Since 1947, when India and Pakistan achieved independence from Britain, the death and destruction carried out in…

By Fram Dinshaw , in Asia's Weimar Republic Blogs , on February 21, 2008

By Fram Dinshaw

Since 1947, when India and Pakistan achieved independence from Britain, the death and destruction carried out in the name of Kashmir amount to two full scale wars (in 1947, 1965,), and a vicious but little known insurgency waged against the Indian government since 1989 which only now shows signs of lessening.

In a nutshell, Pakistan and India were both one country before 1947 under British rule, where the problem was shelved but never resolved by anyone. Come independence, the Pakistanis claimed Kashmir as theirs due to its mostly Muslim population. Nehru’s government in New Delhi begged to differ, as the Hindu Maharaja of Kashmir was granted assistance against Pakistan’s incursions in exchange for formally joining India.

It was this Indian demand on Kashmir and Pakistan’s military incursions that sparked the wars of 1947-8 and 1965. Each time, Pakistan suffered tactical defeat, yet India failed to resolve the strategic issue of Kashmir’s status. Pakistan from 1948 to this day holds the northern third, known as ‘Azad (Free) Kashmir’, while India holds the southern portion with Srinagar as its state capital.

To further complicate this already vexing conflict, China grabbed the far North East of Kashmir (known as Aksai Chin) from India in 1962, after a vicious mountain war which saw India soundly beaten. China has refused to budge ever since. My own grandfather was an Indian airforce pilot dropping supplies to troops. He complained that the Chinese advanced so fast most of the supplies were just captured by Mao’s soldiers.

While China stayed put, Pakistan’s government realized they didn’t have the military muscle to wrest Kashmir from India. Yet in the 1980s, the USSR invaded Afghanistan next door, and the Americans found General Zia ul Haq’s regime in Islamabad as a new best friend, sending weapons and money to Mojahedin groups fighting the Russians.

It was no coincidence that 1989 was both the year that the USSR left Afghanistan and the start of an insurgency in Indian occupied Kashmir. The Mojahedin groups spawned by the Afghan wars simply marched east, no doubt encouraged by Pakistan, into Kashmir. Many of these groups advocated an independent Kashmir, yet Pakistan was no doubt waiting in the wings to absorb it like a sponge.

Ultimately, this proxy war raged through the 1990s, killing thousands – Kashmiri residents, Indian soldiers, and militants themselves. Mostly just people like my aunt’s elderly Pathan barber who was so depressed by the violence engulfing this once serene land he just lost the will to live, dying of a broken heart. He was lucky, as thousands more were killed in terrorist attacks, or caught up in gunfights between the Indian army and militants.

Yet a broken heart is an apt description of today’s Kashmir. A beautiful alpine land cut up bloodily between three nations who just cannot negotiate a lasting deal.


  • A completely one-sided view by a one-sided author. The problems did not start in 1989. They flared up following decades of abuses and oppression by the Indian army. Thousands died, many more injured, tortured, raped or disappeared for ever. The continued oppressive onslaught by the Indian army led to the uprising – but no mention of that. Just terrorists fighting a peace-loving army huh?

    Anyone killing innocent civilians is horribly wrong. The Indian army has caused more carnage, more destruction of innocent civilians (their property and livelihoods) than terrorists ever will.

    I’m surprised this forum is being used to offer such biased one-sided views on a topic so controverial, in the name of journalism. Such simplistic views cause more damage than solve problems – suggest you learn your trade on something less controversial.

  • A representation of any information needs to be unbiased and I am completely with the author in this attempt. Nas has very biased opinions and is justifying terrorism…strange? Seems to belong to a misguided group. Wonder whats the idea!

  • This very thought which Nas is carrying comes from the Jihad school of thought which has brought nothing but misery not only to the valley and its people but people across the world.

    The Land of Kashmir was , is and will be a integral part of India and i am completely with the autor in this attempt.

  • This is a beautiful article, which conveys the hearts of people of Kashmir. Its totally their choice, to live their life, as they wish. No government should interfere in that matter. Only one country should give military protection for the people to protect threats like China. As China, can any time do the same thing they did with Tibet.
    Pakistan and India, should stop the hate so long and putting all their energy only on Kashmir, and look ahead for their future and stop militants inside the country.

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