Kashmir is a landlocked region to the north-west of the Indian subcontinent and has been the subject of a long running territorial dispute between Pakistan and India since both states were formed in 1947. During its history Kashmir has been home to and ruled by Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. Operating as a monarchy the kings were Hindus until 1346, and after that Muslim until 1586, establishing Islam in the region. In 1586 Kashmir became part of the Moghul empire after it was annexed by the emperor Akbar. Kashmir enjoyed a relative period of quiet and could operate as a largely independent country until the Moghul empire began to decline, and disorder returned.

In 1752 Kashmir was conquered by Afghans and became part of Afghanistan until 1819 when Sikhs from neighbouring Punjab led by Ranjit Singh removed the Afghans. After the British annexed Punjab and defeated the Sikhs they sold Kashmir to Maharaja Gulab Singh of neighbouring Jammu under the Treaty of Amritsar. This deal effectively gave the Hindu Ghulah Singh the status of independent prince of the ethnically mixed but predominately Muslim Kashmir. As British rule in the subcontinent continued, Ghulan Singh's descendents continued to rule Kashmir. In 1931 there was a Kashmiri uprising against the Maharaja which was swiftly quelled but led to the introduction of a limited form of democracy in the creation of a legislative assembly in 1934.

After the Second World War it became clear to the United Kingdom that it could no longer afford its empire. The decision was made to split the subcontinent into majority Hindu and majority Muslim nations. By the summer of 1947 Britain was in an economic crisis, and Lord Mountbatten the last Viceroy of India announced a plan to achieve partition in 70 days, instead of a year as had originally been planned. This haste led to chaos, forced migration and massacres as Hindus fled what was to become Pakistan and Muslims fled what was to become India. However under the instruments of partition, rulers of princely states (such as Kashmir) were given the options of joining either Pakistan or India or remaining independent, although they were encouraged by the departing British to join whichever entity they were contiguous with.

The dithering Hari Singh, Maharaja of Kashmir could not decide. As a Hindu if he joined Pakistan he would certainly lose control of Kashmir, but he ruled a land with a 77% Muslim majority (1941 census) and could not drag them into India. On the 15th August 1947, the British Paramountcy lapsed, and the sovereign states of India and Pakistan were created, but Kashmir did not secede to either state. Two months later the Maharajas hand was forced. Afghan tribesman invaded from Pakistan. The people of Kashmir were more eager to join Pakistan, but Hari Singh, fearing tribal warfare and pressurised by India, absconded to Delhi and signed the Instrument of Accession on the 26th October 1947. The next day tens of thousands of Indian troops were flown into Kashmir. The Maharaja had agreed to acceed to India without consulting his people. Lord Mountbatten had accepted the accession on condition that reference was made to the people of Kashmir. However since then India has never held a plebiscite in Kashmir.

Fighting continued, until a ceasefire was brokered by the United Nations in 1949, and a line of control fixed, giving Pakistan 37% of Kashmir and India the remainder. This stand off continued throughout the 1950s with the no further progress being made. in 1965 a second war broke out but a ceasefire was in place by September and both sides agreed to try and find a peaceful solution at the Tashkent Agreement which returned the sides to the 1949 line of control. In 1971 a civil war broke out in Pakistan which led to the creation of Bangladesh out of East Pakistan, and fighting broke out again in Kashmir. India made some gains before a ceasefire was agreed with the signing of the Shimla Agreement, which brought the line of control to the 1971 position, which is the present state as of now.

Throughout the 1980s Muslim resistance to Indian rule in Kasmir escalated, with some militants supporting independence and some union with Pakistan. In 1987 a pro-Indian government was formed in Kashmir, in elections which are thought to have been rigged. As the armed uprising intensified the legislature was suspended and Kashmir put under direct presidential rule from India. Elections were again held in 1996, again they were neither free nor fair. Fighting broke out again in 1999, stemming from the kargil conflict caused by insurgents from Pakistan crossing the border. A ceasefire was again declared but with both sides now possessing nuclear weapons and after the sabre rattling began again in earnest with the War in Afghanistan, it seems that the conflict in Kashmir is still a long way from being resolved.

Want to know more? Please read The Kashmir Dispute, by rischi for a more detailed discussion of the current tensions in Kashmir.