Why are India and Pakistan fighting over Kashmir

01:00 Mon 08th Jan 2001 |

asks Allan:

A. It's been going on for a while. It started in 1947 with the Partition which split the sub-continent into India and Pakistan, ending 163 years of British rule. Kashmir went with India.

Q. Why
Hari Singh, the maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, wanted time to decide whether Kashmir should go with Pakistan or India - or stay independent. Before he had time to decide, he accused Pakistan's leaders of sending plain-clothed soldiers into Kashmir, and of blocking supplies of food and petrol. He soon became afraid of being overrun by Pakistan, so he decided to accede to India. He signed the Instrument of Accession - and Kashmir became a state with special status within India.

Q. Presumably Pakistan isn't happy about that
No. Because most of the population of Kashmir is Muslim, Pakistan argues that Kashmiris should be allowed to vote to decide which country they want to belong to. Adding weight to this are some UN resolutions stating that there should be a referendum in Kashmir.

Q. But..
India stands by the Simla Agreement of 1972, where both countries agreed that bilateral negotiations were the way to sort out the Kashmir problem. India also argues that elections have shown that Kashmiri people want to stay in India. At present, India controls two-thirds of Kashmir, and Pakistan one third.

Q. Why does India want to keep Kashmir
If Kashmir breaks away from India, other states may do the same. It would also cause a massive lost of face because of the years of fighting over it.

Q. Why is everyone else so worried about Kashmir
Because these countries are on the brink of war. They have been at war before - the last time was in 1971 - but this time it is more dangerous because both countries have nuclear capabilities.

The tension between Pakistan and India is at its highest for 30 years because of the attack on India's parliament in December 13. India blames the attack on Islamic groups based in Pakistan who are fighting to make Kashmir part of Pakistan.

Q. What is Tony Blair's role in this
He visited both countries as a go-between.

Q. Does he have a solution for the Kashmir problem
No - Downing Street is emphatic that this is an issue that has to be resolved by India and Pakistan.

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By Sheena Miller

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