A history of rivalry
In 1947, both India and Pakistan gained their independence from Great Britain and since then they have fought in numerous wars mainly over the control of the regions of Kashmir and Jammu. Pakistan’s claim on Kashmir relies on the fact that they both share a religion, and Punjab (Pakistan’s biggest region) has close ethnic ties with Kashmir. The first Indo-Pakistani war took place in October of 1947 and it was declared after an invasion of Kashmir by armed Pakistani men. This led the ruler of Kashmir and Jammu at the time to join India as they turned to them for military assistance. This war lasted until January 1949.
Since then there have been several conflicts between the two countries such as the second Indo-Pakistani war which took place in 1965. A peace declaration was signed by both countries one year later. However, despite the lack of military conflict between the two countries for the following decades, tensions were still present. In 1974, India successfully tested its first nuclear weapon. The location of this testing was very strategic as it was close to Pakistan. Tensions increased significantly in 1998 when Pakistan became a nuclear power itself. This is a turning point, as one year later the Kargil War between the two countries took place.
In the past two decades, it is possible to see the emergence of terrorist attacks. In December 2001, five armed terrorists opened fire in the Indian Parliament. This resulted in the death of nine people. Another infamous terrorist attack took place in November of 2008. This time, ten Pakistani men which were part of the terrorist group “Lashkar-e-Tayyiba”, attacked different buildings in Mumbai. This attack resulted in the death of 174 people.
Why are Jammu and Kashmir so important?
As mentioned before, there are cultural and religious aspects to the situation. However, there is also an economic side to it. Both Kashmir and Jammu have an abundant amount of natural resources. When it comes to mineral resources they have more than 500 mineral blocks combined. Moreover, they are the only Indian regions producing borax and sapphire. These are not the only resources that can be found in these two regions. Indeed, both of them account for 36% of India’s graphite and 21% of its marble. The regions are also rich in terms of water resources which are essential to the agricultural sector. In total there are 1230 water bodies in both regions.
What is the situation today?
When looking at the beginning of the 21st century, the issue of Kashmir for the Pakistani people did not seem to be a priority. Because there was a string of terrorist attacks in their country, resolving domestic problems was more important. The issue of Kashmir was relegated to the shadows for some time. Moreover, a ceasefire signed in 2003 seemed to be full of promise, as Pakistan promised they would stop funding insurgent groups in India.
Things changed in 2014 with the election of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His party (the Bharatiya Janata Party) is right-wing and has historically defended a more traditional Hindu nationalist point of view. In 2014, he ran on a campaign that promised to be harder on Pakistan. In 2017, Modi canceled his visit to Islamabad for a regional summit. Two years later, he revoked Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status.
As of today, the relationship between the two nations is strained and they do not talk formally to each other. Indeed, Amit Shah (India’s Home Minister), said last month that there is no possibility for dialogue between both countries when it comes to Kashmir.
What are the stances of other countries on the matter?
Russia sees this dispute as a bilateral issue and has blocked any type of internalization. Indeed, since the 1950s, Russia has vetoed any discussion of Kashmir in the UN’s Security Council on five different occasions. They have reiterated their point of view in August 2019, when Russia stated again that India’s move on Kashmir was an internal matter and the UN should not intervene. This stance that the dispute should remain an internal matter is highly relevant today as it reflects Russia’s view on the Ukrainian conflict. The Russian government believes that the dispute over the Ukrainian territory should be dealt with between the two countries and there should be no international intervention whatsoever.
The United States has stated that it considers the matter of Kashmir and Jammu should be considered territory disputed between India and Pakistan and would not side with either country. In February 2021, the US State Department explained that this was still their stance on the matter, despite the country’s growing alliance with India. Taking into account the growing tensions between the US, China, and Russia, India is the perfect ally for the US, and it is also one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.
As mentioned before, there are growing tensions between China and India. One of the reasons for this is their dispute over the border in the Ladakh region. This pushed China to call Modi’s choice of stripping Kashmir of its semi-autonomous status: “illegal and invalid.” In 2020, the border saw its most violent conflict in decades between the two armies. This conflict resulted in the death of twenty Indian soldiers and an unknown number of Chinese soldiers.
In conclusion, Pakistan and India have been fighting over these two regions for the better part of the second half of the 20th century. Today, the situation seems far from resolved as there is still no dialogue.
Featured image by: BW BusinessWorld