Since British India was divided into: Pakistan, intended as a homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent; and India, a mainly Hindu state, there have been three wars. The main dispute is Kashmir. During the British period it was a princely state ruled by a Hindu Rajah. However, most of the population is Muslim. In 1947 the ruler decided to join India, though the people, if asked, might have wished to join Pakistan. In 1990 the people seem to be in revolt against Indian rule and the reported brutality of the "security forces". Other causes of war have been: the Rann of Cutch, an arid area on the west coast where there is a border dispute; the revolt of East Pakistan, now Bangladesh.

The obvious solution would have been a referendum of the people of Kashmir but the Indian government does not wish to concede this and it may now be too late.

Since 1990 guerrilla activity in Kashmir has been increasing. This has provoked increasing brutality by Indian police and soldiers, with disappearances, torture, imprisonment without trial and all the usual apparatus of repression.

By June 2002 there is a danger of renewed war between Pakistan and India, both now possessing nuclear weapons. The Indian government says it has a policy of not using them first, but the Pakistani government has no such policy, and is thought to be ready to use them if faced with conventional defeat.

In April 2005 new transport links between the Indian and Pakistani areas are signs of peace efforts by the Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistan military president. These are hopeful signs, though agreement on a permanent frontier has not been reached.

However, the turmoil in Pakistan at the end of 2007 makes the future seem more uncertain.

This article suggests that a political solution is possible, though the disintegration of the Pakistani political system may make it unrealisable. The war on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border areas also distracts world statesmen from the Kashmir problems.

Last revised 17/03/09


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