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Since the partition of the Indian subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947, the Kashmir dispute has been an intractable one between them. They fought three wars over it in1948, 1965, and 1999, but have not been able to resolve it. The partition left the fate of over 550 princely states undecided. They were required to accede to either of the two states on the basis of the geographical location and wishes of their people.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir should have acceded to Pakistan because of its Muslim majority population and geographical location, but this was not happened when Mahraja Hari Singh seek military assistance from India to resist the Pakistani tribal’s attacks and ultimately signed the ‘Instrument of Accession’ with India. Eventually Indian forces intervened and captured the state of Jammu and Kashmir. From that day Kashmir dispute has been the core issue between both Pakistan and India, which also had kept the security of entire South Asia at stake because of their extensive nuclear capability.
So, the Kashmir issue has been a major bone of contention from the day of independence, resulted in three wars, numerous conflicts between India and Pakistan and severely rigid diplomacy. The United Nations Security Council had tried to resolve the dispute by declaring that the accession of Jammu and Kashmir to India or Pakistan should be decided through the democratic method by holding a free and fair plebiscite but India had rejected any mediation which opposed its claim regarding Kashmir.
Kashmir’s strategic importance lies in the fact that its borders meet with China and Afghanistan and also is close to Russia. Almost all the rivers which flow through Pakistan, originate from Kashmir, that’s why both the countries ignore stepping back claiming of this territory.
The failure of diplomacy to resolve the Kashmir issue attracted international and regional attention to it. After the wars of 1948, 1962 and 1965, determined efforts were made to resolve this issue. In 1948, the United Nations became deeply involved but India didn’t show flexibility. After the India-China border War of 1962, there were intense but fruitless American and British efforts to bridge a gap between India and Pakistan. The end of 1965 war saw Soviet Union as a regional peacemaker. The Soviets did manage to promote a peace treaty at Tashkent, but this could not establish peace in the region and soon Indian involvement in East Pakistan led to her separation in 1970-71.
The most consistent feature of great power influence on the Kashmir problem has been its ineffectiveness. Besides Cold war rivalries, both United States and the Soviet Union have played significant, often parallel and cooperative roles in the subcontinent. Both Washington and Moscow made several inconclusive efforts to mediate the dispute or bring about its peaceful resolution, but were distrustful of anything more. It took the 1990 crisis with its nuclear dimension, to bring the United States back to the region.
Soviet Union, United states and China have different policies towards the Kashmir dispute according to their own interests. In the beginning all of them showed neutrality but with the changing world’s politics and dimensions, they formulate their concerns regarding Kashmir. China‘s Kashmir policy has passed through different stages. In first phase, from 1949 to 1960s, China avoided siding with either India or Pakistan; instead it favored a resolution of the issue through peaceful settlements and also opposed the role of UN and United States to mediate Kashmir issue.
The second phase started from early 1960s and lasted till 1970. Sino-Indian border war of 1962 started hostility between India and China resulted close relations with Pakistan. China stood by Pakistan on Kashmir issue with firm support for the right of self determination. But in 1970s, China adopted neutral policy on Kashmir issue as its relations were normal with India; this was reflected during Kargil conflict and Indo-Pak military possible conflict in 2001-2.
The normal relations between India and Pakistan on Kashmir would bring benefits to the United States. Indo-Pak tensions are especially dangerous because they bring two nuclear states on the brink of war. They divert Pakistan from fighting terrorists and militants on their own soils. India and Pakistan need to engage in combined bilateral talks on all important issues. Continuing tensions over Kashmir will weaken any initiative to bring stability to South Asia as well as bring about the risk of a nuclear war. It will be quite right by assuming that Kashmir is the root cause of much of the militancy in South Asia.
It is necessary for international community to realize that peace and stability in South Asia can only be guaranteed if all outstanding disputes between Pakistan and India, including the Kashmir dispute should be resolved because Pakistan has become a frontline state against the Global War of terrorism.The best solution of the Kashmir dispute could be the right of self determination which should be given to Kashmiris in order to give them the right to decide to whom they want to accede.