The issue of whether the region of Kashmir should be an independent state, part of India, or part of Pakistan, has been a source of serious conflict ever since India and Pakistan were partitioned into two different countries in 1947. When that partition occurred, the two new countries were divided along largely religious lines: most residents of the new country of India was Hindi, while most residents of the new country of Pakistan were Muslim. Kashmir, however, did not have any one dominant religion that could guide its destiny. The issue of who should govern Kashmir has been a source of contention and three wars since 1947 along with persistent border disputes.
Part of the difficulty is that the two regional powers, India and Pakistan, both feel that Kashmir should be part of their respective country. However, many Kashmiris feel that Kashmir should be its own independent state and will be dissatisfied no matter which country ultimately might rule them (Kumar M., 2005). Meanwhile, since India's Prime Minister Nehru first brought the issue of Kashmir to the United Nations in 1948, it has been the longest-existing territorial dispute in front of that organization (Kumar M., 2005).
"In 1947 the majority of Kashmir's residents were Moslem. However, its ruler was Hindu. In addition, in large areas the residents were Buddhist. While Kashmir shares a border with Moslem Pakistan, along that border lived a variety of religious groups including Sikh as well as Hindu and Muslim (Kumar R., 2002). Thus while most of the region was divided along religious boundaries, Kashmir really has no one clear and dominant religion.
What M. Kunar (2005) accurately describes as "deep-rooted animosity and distrust" has made conciliatory efforts at real compromise difficult for nearly six decades (Kumar M., 2005). Because both Pakistan and India are now nuclear powers, the conflict over Kashmir makes the instability of great concern to other nations.
The history of the region is problematical. Pakistan believed that Great Britain, who was in charge of the partition of India into two states in 1947, would be on its side because it suited Great Britain's interests at the time to help ensure Pakistan's survival (Kumar R., 2002). However, Great Britain knew that the issue of Kashmir was not as clear-cut as Pakistani leaders believed it to be, and Britain's overriding goal was to disentangle itself as quickly as possible and to try avoid taking sides (Kumar R., 2002). Within three months of the partition, religious war broke out among Sikhs as well as Hindi and Muslims living in Punjab, resulting in multiple massacres, and peasants revolted in Kashmir. Pakistan, sensing that the Kashmiris might side with them, entered that war, and Pakistani tribesmen went to Kashmir to fight (Kumar R., 2002).
The Prime Minister of India, Jawararlal Nehru, hoped that a democratic election would help settle things, but Pakistan sent in troops to help the Pakistani tribesman. However, local Kashmiris supported the Indian troops who had entered the fracas (Kumar R., 2002).
Lingering hostilities between India and Pakistan after the partition persisted into the 1970's. In 1965, after the Indian government imprisoned a popular Moslem leader, Pakistan invaded Kashmir, once again erroneously believing that Kashmiris would support their actions and mount a revolt. Indian and Pakistan fought over Kashmir for a third time in 1971 after India interfered in internal Pakistani issue (whether the Eastern portion of that divided country should secede from Pakistan or not). This time, India saw a decisive victory. They captured a significant amount of Pakistani territory and captured nearly 100,000 Pakistani soldiers (Kumar R., 2002).
In all these conflicts, one important factor was continually overlooked by both Indian and Pakistan: the desires of the Kashmiri people themselves. Kashmir wanted sovereignty in 1947, but instead was given only the choice of joining Pakistan or joining India. Kashmir recognized its multi-ethnic nature and did not want to join with either country, but was not given that choice (Kumar R., 2002). While Kashmir has been informally divided between the two countries, both India and Pakistan have governed poorly, with problems including harsh repression and political corruption. A significant portion of the turmoil in Kashmir comes from the combined effects of this multi-faceted corruption and the fact that Kashmir has never sought to be a part of either India or Pakistan…