Monday, March 1, 2010

History of Kashmir and Why India and Pakistan are Fighting over Kashmir?

Kashmir (Kashmiri: کٔشِیر, कॅशीर; Dogri: कश्मीर; Ladakhi: ཀཤམིར; Balti: کشمیر; Gojri: کشمیر; Poonchi/Chibhali: کشمیر; Shina: کشمیر; Uyghur: كەشمىر) is the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. Until the mid-19th century, the term Kashmir geographically denoted only the valley between the Great Himalayas and the Pir Panjal mountain range. Contemporarily, Kashmir denotes a larger area that includes the Indian administered state of Jammu and Kashmir (Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh), the Pakistani administered Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir, and the Chinese-administered regions of Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract. The United Nations, and other local entities, use the designation Jammu and Kashmir to geographically denote said area.

According to the Mahabharata, the Kambojas ruled Kashmir during the epic period with a Republican system of government. In the first half of the first millennium, the Kashmir region became an important center of Hinduism and later of Buddhism; later still, in the ninth century, Kashmir Shaivism arose. In 1349, Shah Mir became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir and inaugurated the Salatin-i-Kashmir or Swati dynasty. For the next five centuries, Muslim monarchs ruled Kashmir, including the Mughals, who ruled from 1526 until 1751, then the Afghan Durrani Empire that ruled from 1747 until 1820. That year, the Sikhs under Ranjit Singh, annexed Kashmir. In 1846, upon the purchase of the region from the British under the Treaty of Amritsar, the Dogras—under Gulab Singh—became the new rulers. Dogra Rule, under the paramountcy (or tutelage) of the British Crown, lasted until 1947, when the former princely state became a disputed territory, now administered by three countries: India, Pakistan, and the People's Republic of China.

Current status and political divisions
The region is divided among three countries in a territorial dispute: Pakistan controls the northwest portion (Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir), India controls the central and southern portion (Jammu and Kashmir) and Ladakh, and China controls the northeastern portion (Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract). India controls the majority of the Siachen Glacier area including the Saltoro Ridge passes, whereas Pakistan controls the lower territory just southwest of the Saltoro Ridge. India controls 101,338 km2 (39,127 sq mi) of the disputed territory, Pakistan 85,846 km2 (33,145 sq mi) and China, the remaining 37,555 km2 (14,500 sq mi).

Jammu and Azad Kashmir lie outside Pir Panjal range, and are under Indian and Pakistani control respectively. These are populous regions. The main cities are Mirpur, Dadayal, Kotli, Bhimber Jammu, Muzaffarabad and Rawalakot.

The Gilgit-Baltistan, formerly called Northern Areas, are a group of territories in the extreme north, bordered by the Karakoram, the western Himalayas, the Pamir, and the Hindu Kush ranges. With its administrative center at the town of Gilgit, the Northern Areas cover an area of 72,971 km² (28,174 mi²) and have an estimated population approaching 1,000,000. The other main city is Skardu.

Ladakh is a region in the east, between the Kunlun mountain range in the north and the main Great Himalayas to the south. Main cities are Leh and Kargil. It is under Indian administration and is part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in the area and is mainly inhabited by people of Indo-Aryan and Tibetan descent.

Aksai Chin is a vast high-altitude desert of salt that reaches altitudes up to 5,000 metres (16,000 ft). Geographically part of the Tibetan Plateau, Aksai Chin is referred to as the Soda Plain. The region is almost uninhabited, and has no permanent settlements.

Though these regions are in practice administered by their respective claimants, neither India nor Pakistan has formally recognised the accession of the areas claimed by the other. India claims those areas, including the area "ceded" to China by Pakistan in the Trans-Karakoram Tract in 1963, are a part of its territory, while Pakistan claims the entire region excluding Aksai Chin and Trans-Karakoram Tract. The two countries have fought several declared wars over the territory. The Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 established the rough boundaries of today, with Pakistan holding roughly one-third of Kashmir, and India one-half, with a dividing line of control established by the United Nations. The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 resulted in a stalemate and a UN-negotiated ceasefire.

Kashmir's economy is centred around agriculture. Traditionally the staple crop of the valley was rice, which formed the chief food of the people. In addition, Indian corn, wheat, barley and oats were also grown. Given its temperate climate, it is suited for crops like asparagus, artichoke, seakale, broad beans, scarletrunners, beetroot, cauliflower and cabbage. Fruit trees are common in the valley, and the cultivated orchards yield pears, apples, peaches, and cherries. The chief trees are deodar, firs and pines, chenar or plane, maple, birch and walnut, apple, cherry.

Historically, Kashmir became known worldwide when Cashmere wool was exported to other regions and nations (exports have ceased due to decreased abundance of the cashmere goat and increased competition from China). Kashmiris are well adept at knitting and making Pashmina shawls, silk carpets, rugs, kurtas, and pottery. Saffron, too, is grown in Kashmir. Efforts are on to export the naturally grown fruits and vegetables as organic foods mainly to the Middle East. Srinagar is known for its silver-work, papier mache, wood-carving, and the weaving of silk.

The economy was badly damaged by the 2005 Kashmir earthquake which, as of October 8, 2005, resulted in over 70,000 deaths in the Pakistan-controlled part of Kashmir and around 1,500 deaths in Indian controlled Kashmir.

The Indian-administered portion of Kashmir is believed to have potentially rich rocks containing hydrocarbon reserves.

Everybody is equal, don't think him/her a Hindu or Muslim. Everyone deserves the right and freedom to be alive. Not govern over the colour of one's skin or religion (which I think is non existence) in this case killing is wrong but we still kill and call each other Muslim or Hindu. I think it is nonsense, a made up illusion

Jammu & Kashmir Flag Azad Kashmir Flag

Documentary video by Pervez Hoodbhoy and Zia Mian;
Copyright Eqbal Ahmad Foundation, 2004

Kashmir is split between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan. They have fought two wars over its control and they claim the territory in entirety.

Divide and Conquer a Nation

Separatist groups have been fighting Indian rule in Kashmir for two decades. New Delhi blames Pakistan for supporting them. Pakistan denies the claim. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the conflict. Ahead of talks between the two countriesin Islamabad this week, Al Jazeera is taking a closer look at the Kashmir conflict. Al Jazeera's Prerna Suri reports from Srinagar about a Hindu minority left homeless by years of fighting. [14 July 2010]

Hindu minority homeless in Kashmir

The foreign ministers of India and Pakistan will meet later this week for talks aimed at restarting frozen peace negotiations. The wide ranging talks are an attempt to rebuild trust between the neighbours, with the longstanding dispute over Kashmir high on the agenda. Ahead of those talks, Aljazeera is taking a closer look at the Kashmir conflict, which has split families for decades. Kamal Hyder reports from Chakoti district in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, on a weekly bus service that is helping to bring loved ones separated by the conflict back together. [July 13, 2010]

Kashmir bus service reunites families

Anti-India sentiments run deep in the disputed majority Muslim region, where more than a dozen violent opposition groups have been fighting for Kashmir's independence from India or its merger with neighboring Pakistan since 1989.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training Muslim fighters. However, Islamabad denies the charge, saying it only gives moral and diplomatic support to the fighter groups.

There is a real sense of fear that such infiltration attempts might increase in order to derail the two side from talking to each other.

The Indian government has offered an amnesty package in order to woo back fighters who would like to come back from across the border without fear of persecution in India.

Sopore in Indian-administered Kashmir.
Al Jazeera's Prerna Suri reports

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