The Kashmir problem

By Abhinav Yadav

Editor’s note:

This paper analyses the problem faced by Kashmir, a territory that has been in turmoil ever since the partition between India and Pakistan. It discusses the strategic position Kashmir occupies, the problems associated with becoming contiguous with either country, the political situation, and the complications that surrounded the accession.

The problem of Kashmir emerged after the Independence of India when it was partitioned into two nations along religious line, i.e. into India and Pakistan. At that time there were more than 500 princely states that had the option of either acceding to India or Pakistan or remain independent. One of these princely states was the state of Jammu and Kashmir which had Muslim dominated population but was ruled by a Hindu king named Hari Singh. Its location gave the state a strategic importance as it shared borders with both India and Pakistan. Unlike most other princely states like Junagadh and Hyderabad, Kashmir was contiguous with both India and Pakistan.

The leading party of Kashmir at that time was National Conference formed by Sheikh Abdullah. Sheikh Abdullah shared good relations with the Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and both leaders were committed in Hindu-Muslim harmony and to socialism. Pakistan naturally expected that after the end of the control of the British crown, the State of Kashmir with its Muslim majority will join it. India thought that the religious factor was irrelevant, especially since the leading political party, the National Conference was known to be non-sectarian.  There was ‘no well-organized body in Kashmir advocating accession to Pakistan’; the National Conference has been pro-Congress and anti-Pakistan.[1]

On 15 August, Kashmir had not acceded either to India or to Pakistan. On 12 October, the deputy prime minister of Jammu and Kashmir said that ‘we have no intention of joining either India or Pakistan. The only thing that will change our mind is if one side or the other decides to use force against us.[2] Two weeks after these words were spoken Pakistan sent in several thousand armed tribesmen to capture Kashmir. Seeking to protect his state, Maharaja Hari Singh asked military assistance from the government of India. The Indian government however put forth the condition that India will give military assistance only if Maharaja Hari Singh signs to accede Kashmir with India.

On 26th October, Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession to join the Union of India. The next day Indian troops landed in Kashmir.[3]The fight between Indian troops and the tribesmen continued till the onset of winters.

On 1 January 1948, India decided to take the Kashmir issue to the United Nations on the advice of Lord Mountbatten. “Through January and February the Security Council held several sittings on Kashmir. Pakistan represented by the superbly gifted orator Sir Zafrullah Khan, was able to present a far better case than India. The Kashmir problem was recast as part of the unfinished business of Partition. India suffered a significant symbolic defeat when the Security Council altered the agenda item from the ‘Jammu and Kashmir Question’ to the ‘India-Pakistan Question’.”[4]

In a resolution dated August 13, 1948, the UN asked the Pakistan to remove its troops after which India will have to remove its troops. Once this happened, a ‘fair and free’ plebiscite was to be held by which Kashmiri people will decide their own future.[5] Pakistan believed that a free and fair plebiscite could not be held till the time the government of Sheikh Abdullah is in place. The Prime Minister of Pakistan stated that first “an entirely new administration should be set up in Kashmir, which the people of Pakistan would accept as impartial.”[6]However, the Indian government insisted a plebiscite could be conducted under a National Conference administration whose leader, Sheikh Abdullah, was the ‘most popular political leader in the state’. Also, the Indian government contended that the plebiscite shall be contended in the whole of Kashmir including the part which Pakistan had captured and put forth the condition that Pakistan removes its forces from the parts it had captured.

In November 1948, The Indian and Pakistani governments agreed to hold the plebiscite, but Pakistan did not withdraw its troops Kashmir, thus violating the conditions for holding the plebiscite. In addition, the Indian Government distanced itself from its commitment to hold a plebiscite.[7]

On January 1, 1949, a ceasefire was agreed, with 65 per cent of the territory under Indian control and the remainder with Pakistan.[8]Pakistan sponsored a government of Azad Kashmir on the parts of which it has control whereas India refers it to as Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). Kashmir was formally incorporated into the Indian Union in 1957 when the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir unanimously ratified the Maharaja’s Instrument of Accession and it has been granted special status under Article 370 of the Indian constitution.

The problem of Kashmir has been a bone of contention between the two countries since then and has led to two wars between India and Pakistan. Pakistan continues to sponsor terrorism in Kashmir to de-stabilise the Indian government there. The present situation is that Pakistan continues to demand Plebiscite in Kashmir and wants to merge Kahmir with it since it has a muslim majority population. It support its claim by referring to the wide spread insurgency in the Kashmir which reflects that the people of Kashmir does not want to be with India. Whereas, Indian government considers Kashmir to be an integral part of India and compromising with it would be compromising with India’s sovereignty. India claims Kashmir to be its part since its maharaja at that time signed the Instrument of Accession with India and also its Constituent Assembly decided to incorporate with India.

The battle for Kashmir was, and is, not merely or even mostly a battle for territory. It is, as Josef karbel put it half a centuary ago, an ‘uncompromising and perhaps uncompromisable struggle of two ways of life, two concepts of political organization, two scales of values, two spiritual attitudes’.[9]

Edited by Neerja Gurnani

[1] SPC, vol. 1, pp. 13-15

[2] R.B Batra, Kashmir: A study in India-Pakistan Relations(Bombay: Asia publishing house, 1966) p. 106


[4] India after Gandhi, ramchandra Guha


[6] C. Dasgupta, War and Diplomacy in Kashmir, 1947-8 (New Delhi:Sage Publications, 2002) p.78



[9] Korbel, Danger in Kashmir, p. 25

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *