Kashmir: A Never-Ending Division

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Following the 1947 separation of India and Pakistan and their independence from the British Empire, the conflict to control the territory of Kashmir began. This conflict has been one of the longest ones in history and unlike others, the situation is anywhere near settled.

Territorial disputes over the Kashmir region sparked two of the three major Indo-Pakistani wars in 1947 and in 1965. In exchange for helping with the rebels, Kashmir signed an agreement to become part of India. Despite joining the country, autonomy was formalized through Article 370, added into the Indian Constitution shortly after. The said article gave the territory of Kashmir a certain amount of freedom: they were able to have their own constitution, their own flag, and autonomy to make laws, whereas foreign affairs, communication, and defense remained under Indian control.

After several violent attacks on each other’s soil, in 1972, under the terms of the Simla Agreement and following UN advice, India and Pakistan renamed the borderline as the “Line of Control” and signed a ceasefire agreement in 2003. Despite this arrangement, they regularly exchanged fire across the border.

With the newly elected Prime Minister Modi, there were high hopes that his government would make significant progress in the negotiations with Pakistan. It was true that some effort was put into fixing their relations, however, momentum was definitely lost in September 2016, when armed Pakistani militants attacked an Indian base near the Line of Control, the deadliest attack in decades. According to the CFR between 2017 and 2018, there were more than three thousand reported violations along the Line.

At the moment, tensions between both territories and other international forces are exploding after the attack in February 2019. Official reports state that the Pakistani Islamic group Jaish e-Mohammad drove a car carrying between 300-350kg of explosives and crashing into a convoy transporting about 2,500 Indian troops to the Kashmir Valley.

Using the attacks, Prime Minister Modi decided to revoke seven decades of Kashmir autonomy by rescinding article 370 in an attempt to regain support and win the upcoming elections. “The risks of violence have risen significantly. The bottom line is India may believe that this move will bring more clarity to the Kashmir issue by formally integrating the region into the union of India, but there are all kinds of risks and uncertainties ahead” said Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program.

Attempts of peace talks have come to no result and Pakistan and Indian remain tense, both aware that their counterpart is a nuclear superpower. On their part, India has approached the US to gain strength as China is gaining power across Asia. Pakistan, on the other hand, is one of the biggest beneficiaries of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative attracting millionaire investments to Pakistani Kashmir.

While the conflict gets worse and international forces seek their own interests in the territory, people living in the Kashmir region have endured decades of human rights violations and abuses at the hands of security forces on both sides.

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