India and pakistan: the conflict over kashmir

Brief History

India and Pakistan are two neighboring countries located in South East Asia. Ever since the creation of Pakistan in 1947, the animosity between these two countries shows no sign of abating. Their hatred for each other has its roots in history, religion, and more recently, a dangerous arms race. Pakistan is a Muslim country while the majority of the population in India are Hindus. Both have gone to war three times since 1947.

Prior to World War Two, Pakistan did not exist as a nation. The whole area of India was controlled by Great Britain for over a century. The two most populous groups — Hindus and Muslims — have been hostile to each other for many centuries. Under the leadership of Mohandas Gandhi, the Indians fought the British for their independence. After much fighting and bloodshed, Great Britain agreed to grant independence.

But there was a big problem. Since Hindus made up the majority of the population in the country, the Muslims refused to lived in an independent state dominated by Hindus. They argued that such a state would destroy Islam and discriminate against Muslims. Instead, they demanded a separate and independent state of their own to be called Pakistan. Realizing that it would be impossible for the two groups to live together peacefully, Britain agreed to partition India. On August 15, 1947, both countries became independent nations. Pakistan was actually made up of two areas, West Pakistan (to the northwest of India) and East Pakistan (to the northeast of India). Both areas were separated by over a thousand miles. East Pakistan later broke away and became Bangladesh. (see map below).
Gandhi was opposed to the Muslims separating from India. A Muslim asked him the following question, "If two brothers were living together in the same house and wanted to separate and live in two different houses, would you object?" Gandhi replied, " Ah, if only we could separate as two brothers. But we will not. It will be an orgy of blood. We shall tear ourselves asunder in the womb of the mother who bears us."

As it turned out, Gandhi was right. Since then, India and Pakistan have fought three wars which left hundreds of thousands dead. And today, with each nation possessing nuclear weapons, they could destroy each other unless they learn to live together as peaceful neighbors.

Cause of the Current Crisis

The present conflict between
India and Pakistan revolves around the territory called Kashmir, which is located to the north of both countries . Both India and Pakistan say Kashmir is a part of their territory.

Kashmir was one of many princely states in India. Under the Partition Plan in 1947, these states were free to join either India or Pakistan. The ruler of Kashmir, the Maharaja, was Hindu while the majority of the population was, and still remains, Muslims. The Maharaja had three choices — join with India, join with Pakistan or remain independent. In the end, he agreed to make Kashmir a part of India.

This event is much in dispute. Pakistan argues that the Maharaja was forced by India to sign over Kashmir to them while India maintains that this was not the case. Pakistan also argues that the people of Kashmir (Kashmiris) were never given a chance to decide their future as the Maharaja never consulted with them . Since Muslims make up the majority of the population, Pakistan claims that Kashmir should be a part of Pakistan.