Kashmir Fuels Lethal
India-Pakistan Rivalry


NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India and Pakistan are engaged in their biggest military build-up in 15 years, and at the heart of the renewed tension is once again Kashmir, a valley of haunting beauty they have fought over twice before.
India sent more troops to the border with Pakistan, scaled back diplomatic ties and cut transport services after it blamed two Pakistan-based militant groups fighting its rule in Kashmir for a deadly attack on parliament in December.
Leaders of India and Pakistan will attend a South Asia regional summit in Kathmandu beginning on Saturday, but New Delhi says "the atmosphere is not conducive" for bilateral talks.
It has said all options -- including war -- are open if Pakistan does not move against Islamic militants operating from its soil against India.
Several defence experts have warned such a conflict could possibly end in the world's first nuclear exchange, with both countries having tested nuclear devices in 1998.
Since October 1947 when the Hindu ruler of Muslim-majority Kashmir decided to join mainly-Hindu India rather than Islamic Pakistan, the region wedged deep in the Himalayas has fuelled a lethal rivalry between the two countries.
Neither side has budged an inch in over half a century of sporadic rounds of talks to tackle the dispute over Kashmir which overshadows their relations.
India, which holds 45 percent of the disputed territory of snow-capped mountains and icy blue lakes, considers it an integral part of the country.
Pakistan, which controls a third of the area, demands implementation of a 1948 United Nations Security Council resolution for a plebiscite to determine the wishes of the Kashmiri people, which followed the first war with India.
China holds the remainder of Kashmir, which has around 13 million people -- some 77 percent of them Muslims.
Independence or merger with Pakistan is the aim of more than a dozen militant groups operating in Kashmir which in all covers about 220,000 sq km.
Tens of thousands of Indian soldiers are deployed across the province to quell a bloody revolt that broke out in late 1989 and is fuelled by a potent mix of nationalism in both India and Pakistan.
India says around 30,000 people have died in the past 12 years. Separatists put the toll closer to 80,000.
Pakistan denies direct involvement in the revolt, but says its gives moral and diplomatic support to what it calls the "freedom fighters" of Kashmir.
India says the U.N. plebiscite resolution was invalidated when Indian Kashmir's constituent assembly ratified Hindu ruler Hari Singh's decision to accede to India.
It also says that India and Pakistan are committed to resolving all disputes bilaterally under the Simla pact signed in 1972 after the last war.
In 1999, the two countries were on the brink of another conflict when hundreds of heavily armed men crossed from Pakistan into northern Kashmir prompting a huge military offensive by New Delhi.
Kashmir was for centuries ruled by more than 20 Hindu, Buddhist, Jain and Zoroastrian dynasties. The 14th century saw the start of 479 years of Muslim rule, including 240 years of independence that ended with the state's conquest by the Sikh kingdom in neighbouring Punjab.
The British conquered Kashmir 27 years later in 1846 and sold it to a Hindu general of the Sikh kingdom, Gulab Singh, whose Dogra dynasty ruled the region until Hari Singh's controversial accession to India.
Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.

Email This Article


This Site Served by TheHostPros