A region of great strategic importance in South Asia, Kashmir is situated just below the former USSR , bordering Pakistan, India, China and Afghanistan.
It falls under India`s Himalayan mountain range. The second biggest peak after Mt. Everest, K2 , is in Chinese held Kashmir. The highest battle ground in the world Siachen glacier is in Indian held Kashmir.
Major religions are Islam,Budhism and Hinduism, although because of years of millitancy, Hindus have been leaving to India.
Kashmir is also the biggest source of conflict between India and Pakistan. Three of the four major India-Pakistan wars were fought over Kashmir in 1948,1965 and recently in 1999. See Pakistani Military Victories.
History: Kashmir in the Vedic period was ruled by Hindus. They developed beautiful temples while governing the state. The presence of Dal lake establishes the fact that agriculture too was a priority during the Hindu period. Till the 12th century Kashmir was ruled by seperate Hindu and Budhist kings before Muslim invasions began.
In the beginning of the 13th century, Muslim Pathans from Afghanistan conquered Kashmir. The new rulers gave Kashmiris three options - convert,die or leave. Those who did not convert or leave were brutally tortured and killed.
In 1587 Kashmir was merged into the Muslim Mughal empire and it became their hill station for the next two centuries.
At the same time Sikhism was born in Punjab.
In 1819 Sikhs freed Kashmir from Muslim rule. Sikh rule didn`t last long due to the British expanding their empire. In 1846 the first Anglo-Sikh war ended with the English emerging victorious.
Through the peace treaty of 9 March 1846 the Sikhs were compelled to pay a war indemnity amounting to 1.5 million sterling to the British. The Sikhs were unable to pay it fully and ceded in lieu thereof the hill territories between the Beas and the Indus rivers. A week later, on 16 March, another treaty was signed recognizing Sikhs as the new rulers of the newly formed Jammu and Kashmir.Sikh rule continued till the end of world war II.
However, outside Sikh territories, Muslims wanted special rights on religious basis under Jinnah`s leadership. Their initial demands for seperate voting rights slowly became demands for a seperate nation,Pakistan.
In August 1947, India was partitioned. Its muslim majority areas - West Punjab, Sindh, Frontier province ,Balochistan and East Bengal joined Pakistan. Pakistan`s map included Kashmir because of its Muslim majority, though the rulers were not Muslim.
Kashmir despite being Muslim-majority did not join Pakistan. Neither did it join India. It wanted to stay free, just like Nepal.
On 22 october 1947, Pakistan sent hundreds of tribesmen to forcefully occupy Kashmir.Kashmir had its own army but its Muslim soldiers fled and joined the tribesmen.In 1947 over half a million Hindus and Sikhs were killed in Pakistan`s Punjab riots. More than five million Hindus and Sikhs were forced to leave their homes behind and move to India. Fearing the worse at the hands of pakistani tribesmen , the King sought Indian military assistance. Indian government agreed to send in troops only if Kashmir accepted to be part of Indian dominion.
The King agreed to merge with India and troops were sent to drive out the infiltrators. The matter went into the newly constituted UN and a ceasefire was declared with Pakistan and India controlled areas staying with the respective countries.
Post 1948 Kashmir progressed as an attractive tourist destination and the largest saffron producing state in India. 1990 onwards both its tourist and saffron images have been ruined by the seperatist movement. Today Kashmir depends on India for its economic survival.
In 1999, Pakistan again sent tribesmen to occupy regions in Indian held Kashmir. India used Mirage fighter planes and Bofors field guns to pound and drive them out.
During the 2002 military standoff between India and Pakistan, both nuclear giants came very close to an all-out war. But since then India and Pakistan have made steady progress on improving bilateral relations and a peaceful solution to Kashmir is expected.
What is the Kashmir dispute?
Pakistan claims it because it is Muslim majority. Pakistan`s argument in this regard is the two-nation theory, according to which there are two nations within india,one Hindu nation and the other Muslim nation.
India claims it because Kashmir chose to merge with India when Pakistan attacked it in 1948. India`s argument is that wherever Muslims are in majority they have driven Hindus out. If India is partitioned on religious basis like 1947 once again, where will Hindus go if Muslims become majority in other Indian states and start a Kashmir like power struggle.