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Country Report: Pakistan and The Disputes Over The Kashmir Region

Written by Morgan Phillips


The region known as Pakistan today has been inhabited since the 3rd century BCE when it was part of the Mauryan and Kushan kingdoms. The first Muslim conquests of the region came in the 8th century as Muslim armies conquered land from the Hindu Kush to Delhi to the Indo-Gangetic Plain to Bengal. The last Muslim conqueror was the Mughal Dynasty which held authority over the entire subcontinent. The Muslim invasions consolidated Islam in South Asia. By 1757, the British East India Company had wrestled control of the region from the Mughal dynasty with the last Mughal emperor exiled in 1857.

During British colonial rule, modern-day Pakistan was a part of India. Once the last Mughal emperor had been banished from India, Indian’s Muslim population felt singled out for punishment. They were also reluctant to adopt British customs, but the Hindus advanced under British rule. In 1906, the All India Muslim League was formed to give Muslims a voice and to counter what they believed was growing Hindu influence under British rule. In 1930, Sir Muhammad Iqbal, president of the All India Muslim League, began calling for an independent Islamic State. He wanted the four northwestern provinces of British India - Sindh, Balochistan, Punjab, and the North-West Frontier - to be joined and form an independent Muslim state.

It wasn’t until 1947 that Pakistan gained independence from India and the British. Britain, barely hanging on after World War II, felt it needed to give up its authority in India. India was given its independence as a dominion in the British Commonwealth as was Pakistan. Pakistan came into existence with an act of British parliament. The decision to partition India in this way was based largely on failed negotiations between the British, India, and the Jinnah-led Muslim League over the transfer of power and because of Jinnah’s insistence on autonomy.

However, relations between India and Pakistan remained tense after Pakistan’s independence. Pakistan was formed from two regions where Muslims were the majority - the northwestern portion and the eastern region of Bengal. Pakistan was, thus, separated by 1,000 miles of Indian territory, had no simple means of communication, and had not been given the wealth and resources that Britain had granted to India.

By 1971, there was a civil war between East and West Pakistan, which resulted in the independence of Bangladesh (known before as East Pakistan) in 1972. In the 1950s, East Bengal (East Pakistan) opposed the Muslim League. In 1952, riots broke out because of an attempt by the Muslim League to make Urdu the national language of Pakistan when Bengali, the main language in East Bengal, was spoken by most of Pakistan’s population. Riots continued as Bengalis tried to prevent what they viewed as an attempt by Wast Pakistan to turn East Bengal into a “distant colony.” Divisions between east and west grew during the Ayub Khan era when economic developments were directed at the west rather than the east. Bengalis grew frustrated with policies that served the west over them including water rights and military agreements with the United States.

With the advent of the Awami League, autonomy for East Pakistan became a major issue. In the 1970s, its leader called for a boycott and strike throughout East Pakistan, which resulted in Bengalis attacking non-Bengali communities. The army attacked the Awami League and its supporters in 1971. The Pakistan army could not contain the fighting and Indian forces started supplying the Bengali armed resistance. The Indian Army eventually invaded East Pakistan and forced the Pakistani garrison there to surrender. Bangladesh was then proclaimed.

Today, Pakistan is the fifth largest country in the world by population. It has a majority Muslim population, yet is still diverse. Pakistan is linguistically diverse with over twenty languages and over 300 dialects. Such diversity has caused political and ethnic strife leading to regional tensions that made it hard to form governments over the years.

Since the 1950s, Pakistan has fought multiple wars with India, endured multiple coups, political assassinations, periods of martial law, communal violence, and fluctuating relations with big powers like the U.S.

Tension With India over the Kashmir Region

The crisis over the Kashmir region began immediately after Pakistan gained independence. Both Pakistan and India wanted to make Kashmir a part of their states; however, it became disputed territory since both states controlled portions of the Kashmir region. The picture below shows how the Kashmir region has become a disputed territory.

India and Pakistan went to war over the disputed region in 1947, 1965, and 1999.

Kashmir's local ruler wanted the region to become independent but chose to join India in order to gain protection from a Pakistani invasion. The first Indo-Pakistani War in 1947 began when tribesmen from Pakistan’s northwest frontier invaded Kashmir, which spurned Kashmir’s leader to ask for help from India. By 1949, India and Pakistan signed an agreement to create a ceasefire line, and the Kashmir region was divided as Jammu and Kashmir became administered by India and Pakistan administered the area of Azad Kashmir.

In 1965, India and Pakistan fought for the second time over the status of the Kashmir region. The Pakistani army tried to infiltrate the Jammu and Kashmir region (Indian-administered) and cause an insurgency against Indian rule. India ordered its forces to strike along the border between Indian and West Pakistan and they launched air raids against East Pakistan. Pakistan’s attempts to overtake the region were unsuccessful and the war reached a stalemate. The UN Security Council passed Resolution 211 calling for an end to the fighting and negotiations on the land disputes. Both Pakistan and India accepted the ceasefire and signed the 1966 Tashkent agreement to end the war. In the agreement, both sides gave up territorial claims and withdrew their armies from Kashmir, but these were short-term successes.

In 1999, Pakistani generals ordered their troops to infiltrate into the Indian-administered Kargil district of Kashmir. Pakistani soldiers infiltrated into positions on the Indian side of the Line of Control, which had served as the border between the two nations. The Indian Army attacked the Pakistani positions and forced Pakistani troops to withdraw. The picture below depicts the map during the Kargil War.

The Result of Indian-Pakistani Wars

There has been a fragile ceasefire between the two countries since 2003, but they frequently exchange fire across the disputed border. In 2018 alone, Pakistan said India committed 415 violations between January and March which led to 20 civilian deaths and injuries to 71 others. India said Pakistan committed 560 violations in 2018 killing 23 civilians and injuring over 70 others. In 2020, daily clashes between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control had been recorded, causing the displacement of 75,000 to 100,000 people in Jammu and Kashmir. Reports showed that 40,000 refugees from Indian-administered Kashmir have fled into Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

India and Pakistan’s disputes over the Kashmir region have resulted in continued violence in the Kashmir region, resulting in the deaths of Pakistanis, Indians, and those living in the disputed territory of Kashmir. Since 1989, violence in Kashmir has left 40,000 dead. A 2016 report by Doctors Without Borders found that 45% of those living in Kashmir valley were under mental distress while one in five had PTSD. Additionally, strikes, protests, and curfews have shut down schools while clashes between opposing sides have interrupted daily lives and jobs.

Human rights groups have also raised concerns over the use of excessive force by Indian security forces, including unlawful killings and many injuries. Armed groups operating within Jammu and Kashmir have carried out kidnappings, killings of civilians, and sexual violence. On the flip side, Pakistani counter-terrorism operations have been accused of unlawfully imprisoning people and of targeting locals.

The conflict has also raised concerns over the possibility of a military confrontation between the two nuclear powers. On the diplomatic front, it has caused relations between India and Pakistan to ebb and flow as violence and ceasefire agreements fluctuate.

On the economic front, the conflict has taken a toll on both Pakistan's and India’s economies. Trade between the two countries often got suspended, leading to restrictions on imports from India to Pakistan. Some of the supply chain disruptions impacted vital supplies such as medicine and cotton. The loss of these imports puts pressure on Pakistan’s economy and allows other suppliers to charge Pakistan higher prices for them, further straining a country with a history of economic crises. As in all wars, it is the people on the ground who reap the consequences of the wars fought by their governments.

Recent Developments

In 2019, the Pakistani militant group Jaish-e-Mohammad attacked a convoy of Indian forces in the Indian-controlled area of Kashmir, killing 40 Indian soldiers. India responded with airstrikes that targeted terrorist training camps inside Pakistani territory. Pakistan further retaliated by shooting down two Indian military aircraft.

That same year, India withdrew Kashmir’s autonomy, which angered Pakistan, causing the complete suspension of diplomatic ties and of bilateral trade between the two. Pakistan cut off all trade with India, recalled its ambassador from India, and expelled India’s envoy in Pakistan.

In May of 2021, trade between the two countries was still suspended, making it 20 months. Pakistan’s government halted the resumption of Indian imports of sugar, cotton, and wheat. Prime Minister Imran Khan said trade with India would not be normalized until India resumed Kashmir’s special status. The issue has caused Pakistan’s economic situation to worsen with experts saying that Pakistan cannot afford hostility with India. With falling GDP, inflation, and debt, the suspension in trade with India has not helped put Pakistan’s economy onto a better footing.

In June, Prime Minister Khan maintained that Pakistan would restart talks with India if it gave a roadmap towards restoring the previous status of Kashmir.



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