Understanding the Kashmir Crisis

From the May 2002 Trumpet Print Edition

The strained ties between India and Pakistan are epitomized in the dispute over the border province of Kashmir. This conflict also epitomizes the confusion that was left when the British pulled out of the Indian subcontinent. How did the conflict begin? Is any solution in sight?

Kashmir contains a collection of culturally distinct regions, brought under the rule of Sikhs in the early 1800s. The British fought the Sikhs in 1846, but did not assume direct control of the area—instead they appointed a Hindu ruler as Maharaja.

When the Indian subcontinent became independent from Britain in August of 1947, two nations were formed: the secular states of India and the Muslim state of Pakistan. The rulers of the 565 princely states had to decide which new nation to join. The ruler of Jammu and Kashmir did not know who to join. His state was situated between the two new dominions; and he was Hindu, while most of his people were Muslim. Therefore, he chose to do nothing.

In October that year, armed tribesmen from Pakistan’s North-West Frontier province invaded Kashmir. The Maharaja sought help from India. In return, he acceded Jammu and Kashmir (i.e., the southern part of Kashmir) to India—an accession that was to be confirmed by a referendum once hostilities had died down. A referendum still has not been held.

Pakistan contested the accession, stating many reasons—one of which was that they believed the Maharaja acted under duress. The war over the province continued until January 1, 1949, when the United Nations arranged a ceasefire and a ceasefire line. This left one third of the area (that west of the ceasefire line) under Pakistani control. India, of course, claims the entire area.

In 1971, another war was inevitable as East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) sought autonomy. India supported their cause, pitting itself and the East Pakistanis against the West Pakistanis. Fighting ended in 1972 with the Simla accord, but Pakistan didn’t recognize Bangladesh until 1974. Under the Simla agreement, the ceasefire line in Kashmir was reinforced and renamed the Line of Control. In 1974, Kashmir reached an accord with India, affirming its status as a “constituent unit of India.”

Again, armed resistance to Indian rule arose in the Kashmir Valley in 1989. In the next few years, several new militant groups emerged, many with radical Islamic views. This was mainly due to a demographic shift—always a catalyst for violence in fault-line wars between cultures and religions. The demographic shift resulted from the higher Muslim birth rate and migration into Kashmir from Pakistan.

Hopes of diplomacy were further dashed in 1998 when India tested nuclear weapons near the Pakistani border. Pakistan responded with six nuclear tests of its own. Both nations were sanctioned by major countries like the United States and Japan.

Things grew worse in 1999, when Pakistani-backed forces infiltrated Indian-administered Kashmir, north of Kargil. India retaliated with air strikes. This fray, known as the Kargil conflict, ended under pressure from the U.S. for Pakistan’s forces to withdraw. Both sides claimed victory.

Shortly thereafter, the Pakistani government was overthrown by a coup, an act highly condemned by the U.S. and the international community. But Pakistan came back into the West’s good graces when it agreed to cooperate with America’s current campaign in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the same type of activities that started the Kargil conflict were going on in October 2001, resulting in a border spat that killed 38.

In December 2001, an attack on the Indian parliament left India blaming Pakistani-backed Kashmiri militants—leading to a dramatic buildup along the border. A month later, Pakistan’s president pledged to stamp out terrorism and Islamic extremism in his country—stating his wishes to resolve the dispute over Jammu and Kashmir with India. India isn’t holding its breath.

End in Sight?

Border disputes, or fault-line wars, are always the most complicated and difficult to resolve. Samuel P. Huntington, in The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, states that they “tend to be vicious and bloody, since fundamental issues of identity are at stake. In addition, they tend to be lengthy; they may be interrupted by truces or agreements, but these tend to break down and the conflict is resumed.”

This is a perfect description of the Kashmir crisis. Huntington states that these types of conflicts last, on average, six times longer than interstate wars. They involve fundamental issues of group identity and power, and produce large numbers of deaths and refugees—as has been the case in Kashmir.

Perhaps the most remarkable trait of all fault-line wars, and so prevalent in this particular one—a characteristic that makes resolution even more challenging—is the presence of religious differences. “Millennia of human history have shown that religion is not a ‘small difference’ but possibly the most profound difference that can exist between people,” Huntington writes (ibid.).

London’s Financial Times concurs: “Nationalist feelings have been heightened by religious differences: the global rise of Islamic militancy has given courage to Kashmiri insurgents and eroded Kashmir’s tradition of Hindu-Muslim tolerance” (Oct. 23, 1993).

Finally, all fault-line wars tend to be difficult to resolve because of the domino theory—when neither side will budge for fear of losing other territories. India will remain tough on Kashmir out of fear that “its loss would stimulate other ethnic and religious minorities to push for independence and thus lead to the breakup of India” (Huntington, op. cit.).

Can this type of conflict ever be resolved? Herbert W. Armstrong, who founded the Worldwide Church of God and raised up three liberal arts colleges, gave the world the answer from God’s Word. He was well known for his worldwide travels, in which he visited numerous world leaders as an “unofficial ambassador for world peace,” and spoke to them about the ways that lead to true peace.

Mr. Armstrong wrote about the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war. Two days before that conflict erupted, he was meeting with then Under Secretary-General of the United Nations C.V. Narasimhan—a man originally from New Delhi. “The issues involved, he said, were very complex and complicated, and made more so because both countries insisted on misrepresenting the issues,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “This gives an indication of why we have no peace in the world. As long as individuals and governments are selfishly motivated, each trying to get—to take—to have, without concern for the welfare or evils inflicted on others, there can be no peace” (Plain Truth, Jan. 1972).

For decades, Herbert Armstrong taught the way to peace. He summed it up at the end of his article: “A nation or an individual desires to have what another possesses. He finds a way to take it. This causes friction, retaliation. He pays the price of friction, or even war. He pays the price of losing peace.

“It’s too big a price! …

“If each had outgoing concern for the welfare of the other—equal to self-concern—both could profit without the costliness and waste and destruction and losses through war.

“The way of outgoing concern is the cause of peace.

“And what is outgoing concern? It is the definition of love.

“Until we turn off hate, and turn on love, we’re paying entirely too much for what little we have!”

It will require a change in man’s nature to solve the territorial disputes and religious fighting between Hindus and Muslims—which will be achieved after Jesus Christ returns to educate man on the ways of peace. Meanwhile, watch what unfolds in this area, as the relations of these two nuclear powers hinge on it. Though Bible prophecy indicates these two countries may overlook their differences for a brief moment in time, the events surrounding this province will be a hotbed of activity as religious extremism and wars increase the world over.