How It Started

Let us take into our hearts, the prayer of the great Guru Govind Singhji Maharaj:
"O God, bless me/
That nothing deters me from doing good deeds./
And when I'm obliged to fight,/
I fight for sure to win."

-- India's Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, April 11, 1999, on the successful test of the nuclear-capable Agni-II long-range ballistic missile system

India and Pakistan fought three wars between 1947 and 1972, with Kashmir as the main battleground. Ever since, Kashmir has been in pieces, with India and Pakistan occupying most of it, and China a small portion. Both India and Pakistan claim all of it to be rightly theirs.

The conflict traces its roots to 1947, when India and Pakistan were formed from former British colonies in South Asia. Pakistan was formed from the majority Muslim part of British territory, and India from the majority Hindu part.

The state of Jammu-Kashmir, with a majority Muslim population but a Hindu ruler, chose to be part of India in a process that many Muslims--and Pakistan--believed to be illegal. The United Nations has issued resolutions calling for a referendum to decide Kashmir's fate, but India has ignored them. The majority would almost certainly vote for Kashmir to be independent or part of Pakistan.

Almost immediately, India and Pakistan fought their first war over Kashmir. In 1949, the countries signed the Karachi Agreement establishing a ceasefire line--but did not agree to where the final border should be. The ceasefire was supervised by U.N. observers, who have remained in the area from 1949 until the present day.

In 1965, India and Pakistan fought their second war over Kashmir. It only lasted sixteen days, and did not result in any major changes.

In 1971, India and Pakistan fought their third war, this time mainly over the independence of Bangladesh from Pakistan, but a new ceasefire line was reached in Kashmir.

In July 1972, the two countries signed a new agreement defining a "Line of Control"--yet another ceasefire line--in Kashmir. Once again, the countries did not decide a permanent border.

In the 1980s, India rather obviously rigged elections in Kashmir in order to keep its supporters in power. Ongoing corruption, not to mention outright persecution, rape and other human rights violations, bred increasing discontent among Kashmiri Muslims.

Next: The Kashmiri Rebellion

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