The Kashmir crisis has consumed India and Pakistan since independence. It is the defining aspect of politics in South Asia and it should not be. To understand Kashmir, you have to understand partition.
Partition cost approximately a 1,000,000 lives as the departing British much like they did in Ireland partitioned India based on religion. I don’t want to rehash all of the history other than to say the Muslim League had gained favor and has argued that the secular Indian National Congress could not fairly govern over Indian Muslims. So basically, Indian Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Jains, Jews, Buddhists, etc were classified as one ethnicity and Indian Muslims as another. The partition was then made along these ethnic lines with the areas where the majority of the population was Muslim being ceded to the new nation of Pakistan and those where Muslims were not the majority remaining in India, which was granted Dominion status within the British Commonwealth. The 1,000,000 deaths came from Muslims fleeing India to move to Pakistan while Hindus and Sikhs went the other way. Communal violence broke and the subcontinent has never completely healed. Lahore, Amritsar and the villages around both major cities were particularly violent.
Politicians more than anyone else were responsible for turning Hindu against Muslim and Muslim against Sikh, etc. For generations in the villages of Punjab and Bengal the religions had co-existed but as independence beckoned and then after partition, religion, much like race in the southern US became a way of rallying masses of poor people to support military junta’s in Pakistan and otherwise corrupt politicians in India. It must be stated though that Muslims were often looked down in India prior to 1947 in much the same way African-Americans were by whites outside the southern states in the US. Segregation wasn’t legally enforced but a clear social pecking order was in place even in many areas with Muslim majorities where Hindu’s owned the bulk of businesses and dominated the bureaucracy (Lahore, Punjab’s largest city was a perfect example of this).
While the partition line applied to British possessions, princely states which were technically autonomous (but heavily influenced by Britain) were free to choose India or Pakistan. Kashmir hedged, trying to become independent or cut a good deal.
Kashmir opted to join India allegedly because of its Hindu ruler, despite a majority Muslim population. But reality is, that Pakistan invaded and India sent troops to defend Kashmir. Another complicating factor was that the last British viceroy/Governor General of India was Lord Mountbatten (this month is the 80th Anniversary of the failed Dieppe Raid he led in World War II) who expected to be the Governor General of the Dominions of both India and Pakistan after partition. Pakistan rejected this idea, placing father of the nation, Jinnah in that position, but Mountbatten remained India’s Governor General when in October 1947, he accepted Kashmir’s ascension to India. Mountbatten’s statement had vague language about a possible plebiscite that has never been held but also talked about clearing the state of “an invader” a clear reference to Pakistan.
has been the site of four full-fledged wars between the nations (1947, 1965, 1971, 1999) as well as sorts of other border disputes. It was a centerpiece in the war between India and China in 1962 (more on that below).
It’s difficult to not feel some serious sympathy for the people of the Kashmir Valley, mostly Muslims forced to live under increasingly religious-Hindu rule. However, at the same time Kashmir has become a focal point for jihad, one often glossed over in the west, but probably on par if not even now more influential than the Israeli-Palestinian dispute in producing jihadists and terrorist groups. Al Qaida and the various Mujahadeen’s after all have been most influential in places connected to this dispute.
The continued legacy of partition is seen every day as the Kashmir crisis continues to dominate the politics of both India and Pakistan as well as being one of the major contributing factors to the rise of global Islamic jihad. Despite being a secular democratic country, India has regularly suspended its constitution to continue governing a heavily Muslim region where the majority of the people likely either want to join Pakistan or remain independent. However, given Pakistan’s record of oppression of Hindus, which borders on genocide, the minority Hindu (as well as Sikhs and Buddhist) population in Kashmir continue to look to being in India as a sole form of protection.
To me the Kashmir dispute has always been about natural resources, particularly water, but both India and Pakistan and more recently Islamic extremist groups have made it about religion.
Anyway, let’s move on to China.
In 2020, I recorded several short videos for Twitter explaining in great detail the history of the dispute between China and India. Rather than rewrite or rerecord them, I have linked the two main threads below: