Kashmir: Why India and Pakistan fight over it

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How old is this fight?

Kashmir is an ethnically diverse Himalayan region, covering around 86,000 sq miles (138 sq km), and famed for the beauty of its lakes, meadows and snow-capped mountains.

Even before India and Pakistan won their independence from Britain in August 1947, the area was hotly contested.

Under the partition plan provided by the Indian Independence Act, Kashmir was free to accede to either India or Pakistan.

The maharaja (local ruler), Hari Singh, initially wanted Kashmir to become independent - but in October 1947 chose to join India, in return for its help against an invasion of tribesmen from Pakistan.

 

Kashmir profile - Timeline

A war erupted and India approached the United Nations asking it to intervene. The United Nations recommended holding a plebiscite to settle the question of whether the state would join India or Pakistan. However the two countries could not agree to a deal to demilitarise the region before the referendum could be held.

In July 1949, India and Pakistan signed an agreement to establish a ceasefire line as recommended by the UN and the region became divided.

Kashmir is known by some as India's Switzerland, due to its verdant fields and sweeping mountainscapes

A second war followed in 1965. Then in 1999, India fought a brief but bitter conflict with Pakistani-backed forces.

By that time, India and Pakistan had both declared themselves to be nuclear powers.

Today, Delhi and Islamabad both claim Kashmir in full, but control only parts of it - territories recognised internationally as "Indian-administered Kashmir" and "Pakistan-administered Kashmir".

Why is there so much unrest in the Indian-administered part?

An armed revolt has been waged against Indian rule in the region for three decades, claiming tens of thousands of lives.

India blames Pakistan for stirring the unrest by backing separatist militants in Kashmir - a charge its neighbour denies.

Now a sudden change to Kashmir's status on the Indian side has created further apprehension.

Indian-administered Kashmir has held a special position within the country historically, thanks to Article 370 - a clause in the constitution which gave it significant autonomy, including its own constitution, a separate flag, and independence over all matters except foreign affairs, defence and communications.

Why a special law on Kashmir is controversial

What happened in Kashmir and why it matters

On 5 August, India revoked that seven-decade-long privileged status - as the governing party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), had promised in its 2019 election manifesto. The Hindu nationalist BJP has long opposed Article 370 and had repeatedly called for its abolishment.

Telephone networks and the internet were cut off in the region in the days before the presidential order was announced. Public gatherings were banned, and tens of thousands of troops were sent in. Tourists were told to leave Kashmir under warnings of a terror threat.

Media captionBaramulla resident: 'Our livelihood is affected, nobody is at peace'

Two former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir - the Indian state which encompasses the disputed territory - were placed under house arrest.

One of them, Mehbooba Mufti, said the move would "make India an occupational force in Jammu and Kashmir," and that "today marks the darkest day in Indian democracy".

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