Over 70 years on, battle for Kashmir continues

Indian security forces stand guard along the Jammu-Srinagar highway in Lethpora area in the town of Pampore the day after an attack on a paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in the Lethpora area of Kashmir.
Indian security forces stand guard along the Jammu-Srinagar highway in Lethpora area in the town of Pampore the day after an attack on a paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in the Lethpora area of Kashmir. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI • Nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan have already fought two wars over Kashmir, a former princely state that both countries claim in full.

A long-running insurgency on the Indian side of the disputed territory is now threatening to trigger another conflict after a suicide bombing on Thursday killed 44 Indian soldiers.

Here are the reasons for the dispute between India and Pakistan:

CONTESTED TERRITORY

Kashmir has been hotly contested by both countries even before they won their independence from the British in August 1947.

As per the plan for the partition of India and Pakistan provided for by the Indian Independence Act, Kashmir was free to choose to accede to either country. But when the ruler of the state decided to go with India, a two-year war broke out in 1947. Nearly two decades later, another conflict began in 1965. In 1999, forces backed by the countries engaged in a brief but bitter conflict.

WHY IS THERE UNREST ON THE INDIAN SIDE?

Kashmir is the only Muslim-majority state in Hindu-majority India. Many in Kashmir do not want to be governed by India, calling for either independence or a union with Pakistan, an Islamic republic.

 
 
 

The anger against India stems from high unemployment and heavy-handed security measures put in place to deal with a violent insurgency that erupted in 1989.

Things had calmed down somewhat in later years, but when a popular militant leader, Burhan Wani, was shot dead in July 2016, it sparked off fresh violence.

Since Wani's funeral, stone-pelting Kashmiris have clashed with Indian troops on a regular basis, often to help shield militants being hunted by the security forces. More than 500 people - including civilians, security forces and militants - were killed in 2018, the highest toll in a decade.

HOPES FOR PEACE

India and Pakistan had agreed to a ceasefire in 2003 after years of bloodshed along their de facto border, dubbed the Line of Control.

Pakistan later promised to stop funding insurgents and India offered militants amnesty if they laid down their arms.

The violence over Kashmir continued sporadically however, including a terror attack in the financial capital of Mumbai in 2008 that left over 160 people dead. India blamed Pakistan-based militants for that attack as well as others.

Since the government of Mr Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, there has been a breakdown in dialogue, with New Delhi making talks contingent on Pakistan taking action against militant groups operating from its soil.

Several attacks on Indian military bases in the state since 2016 have added to the chill in relations.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2019, with the headline 'Over 70 years on, battle for Kashmir continues'. Subscribe