How did it start? The disputed territory of Kashmir shares borders with India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and China. Kashmir was partitioned as a result of the Indian Independence Act of 1947. About 65% of the territory is administered by India, the remaining 35% by Pakistan. Jammu Kashmir is the predominately Muslim state within India, which is mainly Hindu.
This conflict, between two of the world's most populous countries, both with nuclear capability has the ominous potential to escalate into theater nuclear war, or beyond.
Tensions between India and Pakistan increased after a series of nuclear tests in mid 1998, as both states sought to demonstrate military parity. In May 1999 hostilities flared when India launched military strikes against Kashmiri insurgents.
During India's struggle for independence from Britain, the Muslim League argued for a separate state for Muslims. After independence two states were created India (Hindu) and Pakistan, which itself was divided into East (Bengal) and West (Muslim).
Maharaja Hari Singh had wanted Kashmir to remain independent, but merged with India in exchange for military support and the promise of a referendum on independence, which has never been held. As a result of the unresolved dispute, India and Pakistan went to war over Kashmir in 1947-48. In 1949 a UN Peacekeeping mission arrived and has remained as observers ever since. A second war was fought in 1965, leading to the peace agreement and a new cease-fire line, known as the Line of Control (LOC).
In 1971, India's military intervened in the conflict in East Pakistan, where Bengalis were fighting for independence from Pakistan, with subsequently became Bangladesh.
Who Is Involved?
India and Pakistan have a long-standing dispute over the state of Jammu and Kashmir, commonly known as Kashmir. The predominantly Muslim population is governed by the secular government of India. The armed forces of India and Pakistan maintain a frequently violated truce along what is known as the "Line of Control" dividing the region.
Since 1989, militant Islamic forces, including elements of al Qaeda and the Taliban, have used terrorism in an effort to drive India out of the region and establish Islamic rule. Pakistan says that India has perpetrated widespread human rights abuses to maintain its control. Since Sept. 11, India has said that it will go to war unless the cross-border attacks end.
Will there be war? War is a real possibility. For India, three terrorist attacks in the last nine months, allegedly perpetrated by Pakistani-based militants, justify a military response. In October 2001, Islamic separatists killed 40 people in an attack on the legislature in Srinigar. In December, five Islamic gunmen entered the Indian parliament in New Delhi and killed seven people before being killed. In May, gunmen attacked an Indian army camp killing 30 people, many of them wives and children of Indian soldiers. India has responded with a military build-up along the Line of Control and has threatened to attack Islamic militants operating from Pakistan.
For Pakistan, India's threats are seen as an aggressive continuation of its policy of controlling Kashmir and also a threat to the Pakistani nation.
What is the U.S. position? The United States is pressuring Pakistan to curb terrorism while discouraging India from attacking.
"We are making it very clear to both Pakistan and India that war will not serve their interests and we're a part of a international coalition applying pressure to both parties," former President Bush said in May, "particularly to President Musharraf. He must stop the incursions across the Line of Control. He must do so."
Above all, the U.S. wants to avoid a war between two allies that could hinder the U.S. war on terrorism in Afghanistan and the search for al Qaeda leaders believed to be hiding in Pakistan.
Who has nuclear weapons? Both Pakistan and India are nuclear powers. India tested three types of nuclear bombs in May 1998. As of the end of 1995, India had a total inventory of 315 to 345 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium, according to one study, enough for 20 to 60 weapons. Pakistan also detonated nuclear weapons in May 1998 and is reported to have up to 10 nuclear weapons. Both countries have fighter jets and ballistic missiles that could be armed with nuclear warheads.
What Does India Want? India regards Kashmir as an integral part of the Indian nation. It describes the Pakistani occupation of portions of the region as illegal. It wants Pakistan to cease support for cross-border terrorism launched by groups that want to unite Kashmir with Pakistan.
What does Pakistan want? Pakistan favors a plebiscite, as called for in a 1949 U.N. resolution, in which the residents of Jammu and Kashmir would vote on which country they want to join. India refuses to consider a plebiscite.