India and Pakistan Clash over Kashmir

The dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir led to the first major war between the two countries. The war ended inconclusively, with a tense cease-fire and Kashmir divided along the Line of Control between Indian and Pakistani occupying forces. The two nations would continue to skirmish and occasionally fight all-out wars over Kashmir for the rest of the century.

Summary of Event

The clashes over Kashmir between India and Pakistan must be understood against the background of India’s struggle for independence from British rule, which lasted approximately two hundred years, and the eventual partition of India and creation of Pakistan at the time of independence Postcolonialism;India
Postcolonialism;Pakistan . The question of India’s unity as a nation was a major issue that divided the leaders of the Indian subcontinent’s struggle for independence during the years that led up to August 15, 1947, when the British finally relinquished power. The Muslim minority within the predominantly Hindu India was led by Mohammed Ali Jinnah, who argued for the creation of a separate nation, Pakistan. Indo-Pakistani War of 1947[IndoPakistani War of 1947]
First Kashmir War (1947)
[kw]India and Pakistan Clash over Kashmir (Oct. 27, 1947-Dec. 31, 1948)
[kw]Pakistan Clash over Kashmir, India and (Oct. 27, 1947-Dec. 31, 1948)
[kw]Kashmir, India and Pakistan Clash over (Oct. 27, 1947-Dec. 31, 1948)
Indo-Pakistani War of 1947[IndoPakistani War of 1947]
First Kashmir War (1947)
[g]South Asia;Oct. 27, 1947-Dec. 31, 1948: India and Pakistan Clash over Kashmir[02160]
[g]India;Oct. 27, 1947-Dec. 31, 1948: India and Pakistan Clash over Kashmir[02160]
[g]Pakistan;Oct. 27, 1947-Dec. 31, 1948: India and Pakistan Clash over Kashmir[02160]
[c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Oct. 27, 1947-Dec. 31, 1948: India and Pakistan Clash over Kashmir[02160]
[c]Expansion and land acquisition;Oct. 27, 1947-Dec. 31, 1948: India and Pakistan Clash over Kashmir[02160]
[c]Diplomacy and international relations;Oct. 27, 1947-Dec. 31, 1948: India and Pakistan Clash over Kashmir[02160]
Nehru, Jawaharlal
Jinnah, Mohammed Ali
Mountbatten, Louis (first Earl Mountbatten of Burma)
Khan, Mohammad Ayub
Shastri, Lal Bahadur
Hari Singh
Gandhi, Mahatma

Indian Muslims felt a separate Muslim nation was necessary to protect their rights, but this insistence thwarted the hopes of leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi, the father of independent India, who wanted the new nation to remain united. The British, who generally followed a divide-and-rule policy to manage their vast colonial empire, exploited the rift between the Indian National Congress Indian National Congress , which favored a united India, and the Muslim League Muslim League , which wanted a divided India, in order to weaken the independence movement itself. Even when the movement was successful, this strategy of the British imperial government contributed to the indigenous disputes and eventually led to the partition of the subcontinent.

When the Indian National Congress refused to accept Jinnah’s proposal to divide India and create Pakistan, Jinnah threatened direct action and incited his followers to defy law and order, resulting in carnage and destruction in many Indian cities during the 1940’s. The violent uprisings were most devastating in Calcutta, in Bengal, and in Amritsar and Lahore in the Punjab. The “vivisection” of India, as Gandhi called it, came to seem inevitable, and violence and chaos remained unabated until, on June 3, 1947, Louis Mountbatten, the last viceroy of India and its first governor-general, announced the British plan to partition India India;partition .

Soon after that announcement, a boundary commission was appointed under Sir Cyril Radcliffe Radcliffe, Cyril , who had never visited India. Although the commission members were Indian judges, half of whom were chosen by the Indian National Congress and half by the Muslim League, Radcliffe made the final decision on contested points. In the end, the northwest provinces, which had predominantly Muslim populations, joined the new nation of Pakistan, although the princely state of Kashmir and East Bengal both remained in India.

There were, however, millions of Muslims scattered throughout India. Many chose to remain where they were. Many others, who wished to join the new Islamic nation, had to leave their homelands to reach it. Moreover, the lands that were to form Pakistan were home to a great many Hindus in addition to their Muslim population. Thus, an immediate consequence of the partition of India was the displacement of millions of people, which was hardly anticipated or planned. During the summer of 1947, an estimated seven million Muslims migrated from India to Pakistan, and about as many Hindus traveled from Pakistan to India, with very little planning and protection. This mass migration resulted in the deaths of more than one million people through violence and hardship.

Following the independence and partition of the two nations, states with Islamic majorities, except Kashmir, joined Pakistan, while the vast majority of the other princely states joined India voluntarily. The few resisting states located within India’s new borders—Hyderabad and Junagadh—were annexed by force.

Kashmir, the largest of all Indian princely states and one known for its natural beauty and its strategic value due to its location bordering Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, and India, presented a special problem. Although its majority population was Muslim, Hari Singh, Kashmir’s ruler and a Dogra Rajput Hindu, hoped to maintain his realm as a separate kingdom. To that end, he refused to join either India or Pakistan and instead signed a “standstill” agreement with Pakistan. Kashmir was valuable to India not only for its strategic importance, its control of the headwaters of the Punjab rivers, and its fame as the Switzerland of Asia, but also for its status as the home of the Pandits, or the Kashmiri Brahmins, whose most famous son was Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister.

There were preexisting tensions between Hari Singh and his Islamic subjects, emblematized by Sheik Muhammad Abdullah Abdullah, Muhammad , known as the Lion of Kashmir, who was jailed for demanding a larger share of power. Hardly two months after independence, Islamic peasants in the Poonch area of southwestern Kashmir staged a revolt against their Rajput landlords. Large numbers of Pakistani tribal fighters crossed the border into Kashmir to support the revolt, hoping to turn the situation into an insurgency and overthrow Hari Singh. By October, 1947, the Pathan tribes from inside Pakistan joined the insurgency, supported by the Pakistani military.

When the insurgents reached the outskirts of Srinagar, the state’s capital, Maharaja Hari Singh released Sheik Abdullah from jail and dispatched him to New Delhi to confer with his friend, Nehru: He appealed to India for military assistance. In response, India initially maintained that it would be illegal for it to intervene because of the agreement of nonintervention it had signed with Pakistan. When Hari Singh understood that the only legal basis for India to send its army into Kashmir would be for him to accede his kingdom to India, the maharaja and Lord Mountbatten signed the instrument of accession, legally making Kashmir a part of India.

Following Kashmir’s legal accession to India, on October 27, 1947, Indian armed forces entered Kashmir to suppress the insurgency. The Indian action eventually turned into a full-scale war between India and Pakistan in which India gained control of two-thirds of Kashmir. On January 1, 1948, at the urging of Lord Mountbatten, India’s Prime Minister Nehru agreed to involve the United Nations Security Council to resolve the dispute.

The Security Council called for an immediate cease-fire and an eventual plebiscite, which was to be conducted under the supervision of a special United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan United Nations Commission for India and Pakistan (UNCIP). The council’s resolution required Pakistan to withdraw the bulk of its forces from Kashmir and India, but to maintain a limited military presence. Although the cease-fire took effect on December 31, 1948, neither side withdrew its forces from Kashmir, and the plebiscite never took place. Kashmir was divided at the de facto boundary between the lands controlled by the two armies, the so-called Line of Control Line of Control (LOC). Beginning in January, 1949, a U.N. observer group was assigned to the area to monitor the cease-fire.


After the 1948 cease-fire agreement, the area under India’s control became known as the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and the area under Pakistani control was named Azad Kashmir, or Free Kashmir. Pakistan continued to maintain that Hari Singh’s cession of Kashmir to India was invalid, because it was signed under duress and it contradicted the previous agreement between India and Pakistan, which committed the two nations to maintaining the status quo. India argued that the nonintervention agreement prior to the war was null and void, because Pakistan instigated and supported the insurgency.

In 1954, Kashmir’s Constituent Assembly ratified the instrument of accession, officially making Jammu and Kashmir an Indian state, and India considered the matter finally settled without a plebiscite. Pakistan’s forces still did not withdraw, however. In 1962, China launched a surprise attack against India and occupied Ladakh, an area of Kashmir bordering China, resulting in the division of Kashmir into three parts, controlled by three nations. Ever since this Sino-Indian War Sino-Indian War (1962)[SinoIndian War (1962)] , China has supported Pakistan militarily and diplomatically, further complicating the Kashmir issue.

In September, 1965, Pakistan crossed the LOC in an attempt to invade Jammu and Kashmir, leading to a second full-scale war with India, the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 Indo-Pakistani War of 1965[IndoPakistani War of 1965] . India decisively defeated Pakistan, and the war ended with another cease-fire agreement, mediated by the United Nations. In 1966, under the auspices of the Soviet Union, Pakistani president Mohammad Ayub Khan and Indian prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri met in Tashkent to produce the Tashkent Declaration Tashkent Declaration (1966) , committing both nations to resolve the dispute without the use of force. However, the declaration failed to produce a lasting peace, as the two nations would fight another major war and many limited wars in subsequent years. Indo-Pakistani War of 1947[IndoPakistani War of 1947]
First Kashmir War (1947)

Further Reading

  • Blinkenberg, Lars. Asia: The History of Unresolved Conflicts. 2 vols. Rev. ed. Odensk, Denmark: Odense University Press of Southern Denmark, 1998. Provides the history of the conflict in great detail with an analysis of the relevant political issues.
  • Bose, Sumatra. Kashmir: Roots of Conflict, Paths to Peace. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003. Outlines the problems that divide India and Pakistan with regard to Kashmir and makes policy recommendations that may lead to peace.
  • Chofield, Victoria. Kashmir in Conflict: India, Pakistan, and the Unending War. New York: I. B. Tauris, 2003. Taking the reader through a history of Kashmir, this book outlines some of the basic issues that underlie the conflict, mainly from the Pakistani viewpoint.
  • Coll, Steve. “The Stand-Off: How Jihadi Groups Helped Provoke the Twenty-First Century’s First Nuclear Crisis.” The New Yorker 82 (February 13, 2006): 126-139. Discusses the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001, and the diplomatic involvement of the United States to avert war.
  • Paul, T. V., ed. The India-Pakistan Conflict: An Enduring Rivalry. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Adopts the questionable enduring rivalry theory of war to shed some light on the roots of the conflict.

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