Kashmir: a Holy Mess

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Kashmir: A Holy Mess
The battle for Kashmir didn’t just represent a clash of ideologies. Though ideology (both religious and political) was a massively important aspect in driving and fueling the conflict, one cannot simply pigeonhole this extremely complex issue. Not only was the battle especially convoluted, but it had far reaching effects and was inseparable from the global politics of the time, such as the formation of Israel and the conflict between Britain and the Soviet Union. Furthermore it is imperative to remember that the outcome of the battle of Kashmir hinged not only on the political and religious ideologies of two nations, but on the extraordinary personalities that exemplified these ideologies. The eloquence of speeches and the ability of leaders influenced the battle. The more effective the leader and the more eloquent his speeches, the more he could push his ideology, making it seem stronger in the eyes of his audience. The battle of Kashmir hinged on certain men that changed the course of history. No matter how broad the term “clash of ideologies” is, this conflict was simply too messy to classify!

To begin with, Kashmir was and still is a state of massive geostrategic importance since it “came to share borders with Afghanistan, Chinese Xinjian (Sinkiang), and Tibet. [and naturally, India and Pakistan] Only a very narrow tract of Afghan territory separated it from the Soviet Union” (Guha 75). It was therefore important to the security of India. Furthermore it was an important source of water to both Pakistan and India. The clash over Jammu and Kashmir was then clearly not only drawn on ideological lines but geostrategic ones as well, to a certain extent both countries simply needed Jammu and Kashmir because of it’s location. “It was geographically contiguous to both India and the future of Pakistan”(Schofield 28).

Pakistan’s line of attack was drawn clearly on religious lines, they sought to couch economics and politics in religious rhetoric in order to mobilize Muslims in the war over Kashmir. The discontent in Poonch for example was brought about by the maharaja levying taxes on goats, sheep cattle and entering the forest. (Guha 80). This hit farmers hardest, most of which were Muslims. Though this was an economic problem it may (Guha 80) have resulted in 1000s of Pathan raiders crossing the border from the North West to violent effect (it was not certain whether they had heard of the “insurrection brewing in Poonch”). This economic change essentially resulted in violence on religious lines. The invasion of the Pathan warriors themselves was “openly encouraged by the prime minister of the North West Frontier Province, Abdul Qayyum” (Guha 81), and ignored by the British governor, Sir George Cunningham. Jinnah’s American biographer claimed that “Pakistani officials…knew and supported, even if they did not actually organize and instigate” the invasion. The underlying ideology here is one drawn purely on religious lines, Muslims were coming to the aid of their oppressed brothers. Ironically however the invaders raped, killed and looted Muslims, Sikhs, Hindu’s and even Christians epitomizing the chaotic state of the time.

Not only did the rebels fail in their aim to show religious solidarity but they also played into India’s hands since Hari Singh asked for military assistance from India and was only granted it once he signed the accession to India. “A senior civil servant lamented in 1998:…The one single element which decided the issue against Pakistan was the faulty leadership of the tribal horde” (Guha 96). Though it is highly unlikely that Pakistan would have won Kashmir through the Pathan invasion, perhaps this man brings to the fore a good point about the leadership of Pakistan. The Pakistani’s clearly lack an organized framework in Kashmir, the National conference went from being a Muslim dominated organization to a secular one that eventually sided with India under arguably the most...
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