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Politics Of The Kashmir Conflict History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

This essay discusses the roots and causes of the Kashmir dispute, a conflict that is of equal or greater importance compared to Israeli-Palestinian dispute, and yet it is something which most people don’t seem to be educated on. I chose this topic because it is one of the main reasons that it is still difficult to achieve lasting peace in the South Asia region, thus impairing the progress of Pakistan and India. In the introduction I describe how colonialism can be seen as the root cause of many of history’s modern day disputes, and background information is given about the partition of India, and events leading up to the bickering over the mountainous territory, between India and Pakistan

In the body paragraphs, I then go on to dissect the three main aspects of the conflict, and give examples of how they are relevant in adding fuel to the fire. India continues to block rivers in Indian held Kashmir that then flow into Pakistan, thus stemming water availability in Pakistan. This is in violation of the Indus treaty signed by both countries; this lack of water then shows effects on the economy in the agriculture and power sectors. The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution demanding India hold a plebiscite in the region, asking citizens to specify whether they would like to join India or Pakistan, but India has so far refused. Finally, religion has been at the forefront of this dispute, but in fact it may not be the true reason for this conflict.


The Himalayan region of Kashmir has been at the center of one of the longest running disputes in modern history. The situation is a classic example of the results of the colonialist strategies of divide and conquer; the land between the conflicting states of Pakistan and India symbolizes the injustice, bias, and greed of the time; and is not representative of people’s will. Unfortunately this is a topic which has been neglected by the world at large and western media; much to the dismay of Kashmiri’s, Pakistanis, Muslims at large the U.N. and human rights groups. The conflicts in Kashmir have claimed more lives and have been continuing longer than those of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A hastily growing, ever more confident India and its ties in the west have made a very conscious effort to smother the issue, so as not to hinder its image as a growing power on the international stage. With this neglect by countries not locally affected with the conflict, it is necessary to further research the topic, bring it to the forefront and resolve the dispute.

Kashmir is, and was an undeniably Muslim majority territory at the time of partitioning India and Pakistan in 1947, with a population of over 80% Muslim. The rules of partition were that each individual state, based on a multitude of factors, population percentage taking the crown, would join Hindu India, or Muslim Pakistan. With Kashmir’s forced accession to the newly formed Republic of India rather than The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, it was the beginning of oppression and conflict that would severely destabilize the South Asian region. The territory of Kashmir went to India because the Maharaja of the state, Hari Singh, was a Hindu. With rebellion from the Kashmiri people and unrest during the time of partition, he called to Hindu India for help, and signed ‘The Instrument of Accession of Kashmir to India’, so that Indian troops could legally come into the state and try to flush out the freedom fighters seeking to join Pakistan.

The Indian government had put into place many programs to dismantle and disperse the Muslim set up and population in the fertile region. With this, it inevitably started conflict between the two religions. This is now synonymous with the Indian state, and the Kashmiris, backed morally and verbally by Pakistan. For fear of the Kashmiris banding together and joining with Pakistan, the only way to suppress the population was through sheer brutality. India is clearly guilty of Crimes against humanity and Crimes against peace, as defined by the United Nations. One example of this, with state backing, an initiative to move hundreds of thousands of Hindu’s into the region, so as to try and even out the population between the religions. This was so that the Indians could argue that there were also a number of Hindus in the region, which would give them some claim on the land. (Affairs, Pakistan Ministry of Foreign. “India Has Mistreated The Kashmiri People.” Dudley, William. India And Pakistan, Opposing Viewpoints. Farmington Hills, MI: GreenHaven Press, 2003. 80-87.)

Yet, the epitome of the oppression was the military aspect of it. Kashmir is the highest militarized Area in the world, with over 600,000 Indian troops occupying IHK. For the past sixty-three years, for every Muslim household in IHK, there are three Indian Soldiers. Statistically, there is almost no household in IHK that has not had a family member killed, kidnapped, suddenly disappear or raped. (Margolis, Eric S. “War at the Top Of The World.” The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Tibet. New York: Routledge, 2002. 108-232.)

How do the Economic, Religious, and Political factors contribute to the Kashmir dispute/conflict? With regards to diminishing water resources due to the struggle for Kashmir, the failure of India to hold a plebiscite called for by the UN, and the Hindu domination of a Muslim state, all three aspects play into the roots of the Kashmir Conflict.

The Sub Continents Water Woes

Water is one of the most important needs of life; it is important for trade, agriculture, survival, and the development of civilization. Water is at the bane of every countries, societies, or civilizations existence. Kashmir is more than a stunning mountain paradise, it is a region where everything flourishes, and greenery is abound; traits which the inhabitants of the vast Indo-Gangetic plain regard in a divine manner. For both India and Pakistan, water is becoming an increasingly large issue. Both countries have enormous populations growing at rapid speeds, agriculture based economies, and most importantly a generally dry and semi-arid environment. Pakistan and India rely on a maze of canals and a tangled irrigation system to keep plants alive and to ensure a large yielding of crops. As, without the irrigation systems, not much would be able to grow in much of the sub- continent, this is especially true for Pakistan, which during independence inherited the rural, lesser developed and dryer regions of India. Kashmir is the birthplace of all of the rivers which trickle down to the plains of Punjab, mostly in Pakistan.

One specific example of this issue is India’s Kishenganga Project. The Kishenganga River runs through Indian held Kashmir, and becomes the Neelum River in Pakistani Kashmir. The Neelum flows through Pakistani Kashmir for 165 km before joining the Jhelum River at Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistani Kashmir. 70-80 kilometers of the Jhelum river also runs through IHKashmir. The water re-directed by the Kishenganga power project reduces the flow of water going to Muzaffarabad. Pakistan also has one project on the Jhelum Riverl the Neelum-Jhelum Hyrdro-electric power project. Two hydroelectric power projects cannot be implemented on the same small stretch of river without devastating the local environment. (Shamsi, Amber. “DAWN.COM | World | Jamaat Shah interview.” DAWN.COM | Home | Latest News, Pakistan, World, Business, Cricket and Multimedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. .) Pakistan, under the Indus Treaty, has a right to construct dams on this river, whereas India does not, because Pakistan has already built one; although India does not seem to feel the need to submit to international law. Some of the impacts this project has on Pakistan is that it reduces the country’s annual energy generation.

The Kishenganga project also has an environmental impact, because the depth of the water is reduced, this has an impact on the flora and fauna in Pakistani Kashmir through which the Neelum flows. But India still argues that it started its’ Kishenganga project earlier than Pakistans’ Neelum-Jhelum project. According to the Indus Water Treaty, India is able to construct a power plant on the rivers given to Pakistan, provided it does not at all interfere with existing hydro- power generation in Pakistan. This is true; but the Jhelum River waters were given to Pakistan. And going by the spirit of the treaty, while the waters are Pakistan’s to use, both countries can attain benefits; both the Neelum and Kishenganga Rivers are tributaries of the Jhelum River. (, Shamsi) There could be some potential limitations to this source though. It is a Pakistani source, giving information from the Pakistani side. Though the value of this is that the things talked about are mostly facts and can be seen regardless of what country they come from. The purpose of this was a press conference trying to bring light on the issue of water scarcity, in March 2010.

The Kishenganga is only one, recent example of how water can interfere with the diplomatic relations of these two nuclear armed powers. There are over 30 dams which India is or plans to construct on Pakistani rivers in IHK or tributaries of Pakistani Rivers that happen to be on the Indian side. Though this is illegal according to the Indus Treaty and numerous International laws, India always has ways of finding baseless loopholes which inevitably drag out the process on the international stage. The water in the region has been labeled as the ‘Lifeline of Pakistan.’ Lack of water has begun to, and will continue to, cripple Pakistan’s economy.

Violations of International Consensus

To say the least, Kashmir has been a bone of contention between Pakistan and India. In 1947 India sent her troops to Kashmir against the wishes of its majority Muslim population. Local Pakistani villagers assisted their Kashmiri brethren and thus started the first Indo Pakistan war which then ended in 1949 through a United Nations Cease fire; resulting in large losses of territory for the Indians.

India pledged to hold a plebiscite on Kashmir as it was obliged to in United Nations Security Council Resolution 47 (1948) On the India-Pakistan question submitted jointly by the Representatives for Belgium, Canada, China, Colombia, the United Kingdom and United States of America and adopted by the Security Council at its 286th meeting held on 21 April, 1948. (United Nations. “Kashmir, UN Security Council Reolution 47.” Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Apr. 2010. .)

The Resolution states in Part B, Clause 7, that, “The Government of India should undertake that there will be established in Jammu and Kashmir a Plebiscite Administration to hold a Plebiscite as soon as possible on the question of the accession of the State to India or Pakistan.” (United Nations) In clause 12 the resolution goes on to say, “The Government of India should themselves and through the Government of the State declare and make known that all subjects of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, regardless of creed, caste or party, will be safe and free in expressing their views and in voting on the question of the accession of the State and that there will be freedom of the Press, speech and assembly and freedom of travel in the State, including freedom of lawful entry and exit.” (United Nations)

It is ever more surprising how India is seen as a maturing leader on the international stage, yet its violations of United Nations resolutions are not taken into account. India has to this day still refused to hold a referendum due to obvious reasons, but it is mainly the fact that India knows the Kashmiris will opt to join Pakistan, that they have gone back on their promise for a peaceful resolution.

Kashmiri and Muslim Oppression

Through the past 60 years of water theft and violating international law, The Indian Government has put into place some of the most extreme and discriminatory laws. The most blatantly violating of them is the “THE ARMED FORCES (JAMMU AND KASHMIR) SPECIAL POWERS ACT”, this gives any one Indian soldier or policeman in IHK to use excessive force, kill, or do whatever he pleases to any Kashmiri, with no follow ups, federal investigations, or government inquiries. This ‘act’ also allows any Indian soldier or policeman to search any house, office or person without warrant, arrest anyone without warrant, stop or seize any vehicle which seems to be suspicious, break open the lock of any door, safe, box, cupboard, drawer, package, etc. There have been over 8,000 disappearances in Indian Held Kashmir, in accordance with these laws, this still continues until recently. As recently as December 2009, up to 900 mass graves were uncovered, some with up to 2600 people in them, something of which there are surely many more in the territory, hidden by the Indian state. Mass graves are also quite un-Islamic, something which the govt. of India is aware of. (Net Pakistani. “History of Kashmir Dispute.” Net Pakistani Kashmir. Net Pakistani, 7 June 2008. Web. 11 Feb. 2010. .) This source is a Pakistani one, from a website of expat Pakistanis, and the purpose of it is to get out information about the atrocities happening in Kashmir. The limitations of this source could be that is may be slightly one sided because it is Pakistani.


The situation in Kashmir is by no means an ordinary one; there are so many angles to the issue that it could take a lifetime to gain a deep understanding of all of them. Undercurrents such as personal needs, family connections, government formalities, and local customs all play a discreet ‘behind the scenes’ role in the area. Though, through the research, as directed by the hypothesis; the three main factors that consist of this quarrel have to do with economics, politics and the face of this conflict, religion. At the time of Partition, Religion was the basis of this conflict, or was the tool by which the local populous was agitated, so as to bring the conflict to a higher degree of intensity. It is a widely known fact that Kashmir had an 80% Muslim population, and there is no doubt that according to partition rules, it was meant to accede to Pakistan. Water is one of the most important resources in the world, let alone the semi arid subcontinent; thus, the one who controls Kashmir, controls the river flow. Both India and Pakistan are heavily reliant on seasonal river flow to be the backbone of the economy. Finally, petty politics, racism and nepotism have a rubbed salt into the wound which is the volatile issue of Kashmir. Through the underlying reasons that affect the wellbeing and economic prosperity of the region, it is easy to see how the battle for Kashmir is more than a race to settle mosques or mandirs.

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