Education About Asia: Online Archives

India, Pakistan and the Kashmir Issue: 1947 and Beyond

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When I teach Kashmir in classrooms and lecture halls across the country, the questions I am most often asked are: What makes Kashmir special? Does it have natural resources that India and Pakistan covet? Both these and other related questions, of course, are designed to identify the underlying causes of the conflict between India and Pakistan over this region since the birth of the two countries in 1947. The answers to these questions, however, are complicated, not least because Kashmir does not, in fact, have any natural resources that India and Pakistan covet, although it is located strategically at the crossroads between South, Central, and East Asia. But even that does not satisfactorily answer the question of why the issue continues to simmer and bedevil relations between the two neighbors. Understanding the Kashmir issue requires a leap of the imagination, since the region holds a special place in the Indian and Pakistani nationalist imaginations, which is why a simple political solution to the problem has not been possible. Moreover, for the past two decades the Kashmir issue has been defined not merely by the conflict between India and Pakistan over the region, but quite as significantly, by an initially homegrown insurgency against the Indian government in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.