Kashmir: Bloodied and Conflicted

It has been as impassive as the snow covered massifs surrounding the Valley that make it, Mughal emperor Jahangir once remarked on the history of Kashmir.

The history of Kashmir has been known to be standing still for long periods of time, and sometimes to flow in torrents, with each page becoming more scarlet than the former.

Kashmir has been a problem child of India and Pakistan, ever since the partition in 1947.On October 26, 1947, Hari Singh, the Maharaja of Kashmir, signed an Instrument of Accession (IOA) with India. This embittered the already strained relationships between India and Pakistan, leading to a break out of war.

It has been claimed that the conflict was largely a result of the fears, jealousies, and rivalries that marked the political environment prevalent in India before independence,that lead to the partition.

Talking of problems incumbent in Kashmir, it will be wiser to not just include the two fighting for its custody, but to talk of a triangle.

The political triangle, that played its first diplomatic and combatant turn in the current political grounds of Kashmir- India, Pakistan, Britain- must be looked at as a whole.

With the constant land trespassing and stone throwing between the two countries, each has either tried to pull Britain’s collar towards itself by throwing a sulk, or tried to lure it on grounds of commonwealth.

International nose poking and diplomatic endeavours, resulted in more or less complicating the issue, by adding to the number of players involved. The members of the UN security council, who were unarmed with a proper knowledge of Kashmir looked towards their British delegates for leads, coming back to square one.

Why is Kashmir so important?

For India, it is a mast head of its security, for Pakistan it is the culmination of its jealousies  and a great geographical expansion along with a strategic advantage over India.

When we see Kashmir through international eyes, we see Britain has always in the past, tried to act as a mediator between both India and Pakistan, when it comes to Kashmir.

Despite of being accused of partisanship on both sides, and being popularly criticised, even to the extent of endangering its relationships with the two countries, Britain has taken an active lead in negotiations.

As we see, the Indo-Sino conflict of 1962, we see Britain supplying arms to India to resist China.

This rang alarm bells in Pakistan government and there was a vociferous expression of resentment in Pakistan against Britain, on the grounds that it threatened its security.

Her spokesman further went out and developed the thesis that India was exaggerating a mere border dispute.

This tarnished British reputation in Pakistan to such an extent that a statement by Pakistan’s foreign Minister read:

We cannot help but deplore the action of another commonwealth country member, namely the U.K. and an ally in SEATO and CENTO to send substantial quantities of arms to India which can only aggravate the situation and pose a greater threat to the security of Pakistan. We feel that this has been an act hostile to Pakistan.

This clearly shows the level of resentment towards Britain in Pakistan on trying to help India. Was it mere good ally policy or Britain’s sense of responsibility towards a newly freed India?

Why the Kashmir issue, which was controversial to say the least, interested Britain so much?

As we see further case studies, we see that Britain was very  much lead by its own stakes in the sub-continent because of economic, strategic and other reasons.

The vast tea plantations in Assam and around the NEFA area in India were largely British owned. These would have been directly threatened with destruction if the Chinese advance had not been halted. Thus, Britain had a vested interest in India’s defence effort in the Eastern war frontier.

Also, an outright Chinese victory would have tilted the balance of power in Asia heavily in favour of China which might eventually threaten direct British interests in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and The Pacific.

A settlement between India and Pakistan over Kashmir would greatly facilitate the defence of the sub continent.The U.K. was afraid that with China’s expanse, communism would take over Asia. The bulbous plague of communism, according to U.S. and U.K. had to be contained.

Resolution of Kashmir, would remove the barriers of enmity among many states, which could unite against China/Communism.

Moreover, the vast strategic interest in Kashmir of The Soviet Union was enough to furrow West’s brows.

Soviet bent towards Kashmir, particularly the region around Gilgit, could not tolerate a hostile power in this region from where the latter could pose a direct military threat to the Central Asia territories.

Hence, the Soviets have been following a calculated strategy to obtain the maximum leverage for manipulating both India and Pakistan.

Thus, we see Kashmir is a coveted territory from the past itself.

A playground of politics, diplomacy, power, and when all’s said and done: bloodbath.

Over the years, the players have changed but the fight remains the same, with the Kashmiris paying the price of living in ‘’The Heaven of Earth’.

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