Three quarters of a century has passed since the beginning of an armed conflict in Kashmir.
The disputed region of Kashmir, which covers 85,806 miles between the Himalaya and Karakoram mountains, is divided between India, Pakistan, and China. While both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in its entirety, each country only administers a small portion.
Kashmir was a feudal country under British rule. It had its own regional ruler. The 1947 agreement by Maharaja Hari Singh (the Kashmiri ruler) was that his kingdom would be admitted to India subject to certain conditions. India would manage Kashmir’s defense and other external affairs, but Kashmir would still retain its political and economic sovereignty.
Pakistan, a newly established country by the British, claimed a majority-Muslim area of Kashmir near its border. In 1947, India and Pakistan fought the initial of three major wars over Kashmir. This led to the establishment of a UN-brokered “ceasefireline” that divided Pakistani and Indian territory. It passed right through Kashmir.
The “Line of Control” border was established, but two wars followed over Kashmir in 1965 and 1999. These three wars saw the deaths of approximately 20,000 people.
The international law is a set rules and regulations that were established after World War II in order to regulate all nations around the globe. It is intended to settle territorial disputes such as Kashmir.
However, international law has failed repeatedly to resolve Kashmir’s conflict as shown by my research on Kashmir law and international law.
In Kashmir, international law is inapplicable
After fighting between India, Pakistan and Kashmir over Kashmir, the U.N. made many unsuccessful attempts to restore dialogue. Today, Kashmir is home to 13.7 million Muslims, Hindus, and other faiths.
1949 saw the U.N. send a peacekeeping mission into both countries. The U.N. peace operations were not as strong as they are today. International troops were unable to defend the integrity of the borders between India, Pakistan.
The U.N.-designated mediator Frank Graham led the Graham Commission in 1958. It recommended that India and Pakistan demilitarize Kashmir and hold a referendum on the territorial status.
India rejected the plan. Pakistan and India disagreed about how many troops they would keep along their borders in Kashmir if demilitarization took place. In 1965, another war broke out.
1999 saw India and Pakistan fighting along the Line of Control (in the Kargil district of Kashmir). The United States intervened diplomatically to support India.
Since then, the U.S. has tried to stop further escalated disputes. The U.S. government offered multiple times to facilitate mediation over the disputed territory.
Donald Trump was the latest American president to offer that offer after conflict broke out in Kashmir in 2019. It didn’t work.
International law is not up to the mark
Why is the Kashmir conflict so politically complicated for an internationally mediated compromise?
One, India and Pakistan are not even able to agree on Kashmir’s international law. Pakistan regards the Kashmir conflict as an international dispute. India, however, considers it a bilateral issue and an internal matter.
India’s position narrows international law’s scope. Regional organizations such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) cannot intervene in the Kashmir issue, for instance by convening a regional dialog. This is because their charter forbids them from interfering with “bilateral or contentious issues”.
However, India’s claim to Kashmir as Indian territory is still a hot topic.
The 1954 law giving Kashmir autonomy was repealed by the Indian government in 2019. They also militarily occupied Kashmir. Today, at least 500,000 Indian troops are stationed in Kashmir.
The Pakistani government condemned the act as illegal, and many Kashmiris living on either side of the Line of Control claim that India has violated its 1947 Accession Agreement with Maharaja Singh.
Officially, the U.N. still considers Kashmir a disputed territory. India insists that Kashmir is a part of India. This has worsened already poor relations between India and Pakistan.
Terrorists and military coups
The military of Pakistan is another obstacle to peace between these two countries.
In 1953, Jawaharlal Naehru, the Indian Prime Minister, and Mohammad Ali Bogra, the Pakistani Prime Minister, agreed to solve Kashmir’s problem by U.N mediation or an International Court of Justice proceeding.
This never happened because Ali Bogra was overthrown by the Pakistani military in 1955.
Since then, several more Pakistani military regimes had halted Pakistani democracy. India feels these non-democratic regimes are not credible enough to negotiate with it. In general, Pakistan’s military regimes prefer the battlefield to political dialogue.
Another factor that complicates the Kashmir situation is terror. Many radical Islamist groups operate in Kashmir, including Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Jaish-e-Mohammed. They are primarily based on the Pakistani side.
Terrorist groups have carried out targeted strikes and attacked Indian government and military facilities since the 1980s. This prompted the Indian military’s retaliation in Pakistani territory. Pakistan claims that India has violated its borderline and defied international treaties such as the 1972 Simla Agreement.