Kashmir is an area of land located at the foot of the Himalayan mountains. Rivers flow through the region, making it rich and strategically significant. Unfortunately, this beautiful land is plagued by one of the most threatening conflicts in the world.
The recent developments in the conflict between India and Pakistan are symptomatic of the age-old problem that has been brewing for decades: the 1947 war between the groups has never really been completed, and the conflict has never been resolved.
When British India was split into two separate states — India and Pakistan — the end result was neither objective nor complete. The two-state solution was supposed to help the warring Hindus and Muslims. Both groups advocated for nationalistic ideas, and as the violence escalated, it became apparent that the groups would not easily reconcile. As part of the solution, it was decided that areas in which the majority of people were Hindu would become India, while areas that were mostly Muslim would become Pakistan. Pakistan drew its name from all of the majority-Muslim provinces.
The “K” in Pakistan stands for Kashmir.
When the British left the Indian subcontinent, they failed to complete the partition of India and Pakistan. Approximately a third of the land was still under the rule of princes and kings when the British exited. Kashmir was part of this group. The Maharaja, or king, of Kashmir was supposed to decide which country the land would join since it was disputed territory.
Kashmir’s incredible value complicated the dilemma. Although Kashmir was a majority-Muslim area, its wealth made it desirable for both groups. Furthermore, politics played a role in the incomplete partition. Although Kashmir should have become part of Pakistan, Nehru — the first Prime Minister of India and an influential politician at the time of the partition — was a Kashmiri native. Despite Kashmir’s Muslim majority, Nehru could never allow his family home to escape his grasp.
The confusion that ensued has not yet been settled. Parts of Kashmir are still claimed and administered by Pakistan, India and China. Recently, the conflict has flared up again. On Feb. 14, 40 Indian paramilitary police were killed by a Pakistani suicide bomber in the part of Kashmir that is administered by India. India has responded by raising tariffs, threatening to divert the river water that flows to Pakistan and performing an air strike on Pakistani militants. India and Pakistan have provided different details about the successes of these attacks, and the conflict obviously has not been resolved.
Although the far-away conflict between Pakistan and India may seem insignificant, it is anything but. The Kashmiri frontier has been a breeding ground for nationalism, religious fundamentalism and sporadic outbreaks of violence. Furthermore, both Pakistan and India are nations that possess nuclear weapons. This begs the question: is nuclear war an imminent threat? Can the conflict in Kashmir be solved?