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Kashmir

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From Alexander the Great to the Mongols, the Sikhs, right up to Muslims today, men and empires have tried to conquer Kashmir through its history. The Kashmir Valley, also known as the Vale of Kashmir, is an intermontane valley in Kashmir. The valley lies within the region administered by India.

The Muslims first came to Kashmir by way of the Khyber Pass. The Khyber Passruns the border of Afghanistan and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan connecting the town of Landi Kotal to the Valley of Peshawar at Jamrud by traversing part of the Spin Ghar mountains.

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James Patrick Page / Robert Anthony Plant

The Muslim Sultans ruled that Kashmir valley for many generations but were mostly tolerant of other faiths. During the sultan dynasty the Hindus became a minority as Islam spread throughout the valley. The Pandits created and controlled the economic power while the Sultans controlled the cultural power. When the Sikhs freed the valley from the oppression of Mughals in the 19th Century Kashmir began to flourish, free from Muslim rule for the first time in 500 years.

Kashmir Mountain Photo by Mathan Kumar

The Sikhs extended the border of their new empire until it stretched to China, Russia, Tibet and Afghanistan. The Treaty of Thusul refixed the borders of these countries as they were in ancient times. Fast forward through time and the Sikhs made a deal with Lawrence of Arabia – a secret alliance.

The foothold allowed the East India Company to enter the picture allowing the British Empire to subjugate the sub continent for decades. The East India Company billed this new Dorga Dynasty for the cost of the invasion – selling the region back to them for the cost of the war. They Held on until World War 2, under the watchful eyes of the British Empire.

Kashmir as a border

The sub-continent was then split into two parts with Muslim Pakistan and secular but mostly Hindu India. Kashmir lies somewhere in the balance between the two. This event leads directly to the conflict of today. The clash is primarily between India and Pakistan, with China playing a third-party role.

Following the partition came the Indo-Pakistani War of 1947. Next came the 1950 military standoff, the Sino-Indian War, and Operation Gibraltar. The 1965 Indo-Pakistani war, the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war and the Simla Agreement followed. Internal conflict continues into the present day.

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India controls approximately 55% of the land area of the Kashmir Valley and 70% of its population. Pakistan controls approximately 35% of the land area that includes Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. China controls the remaining 20% of the land area.

India continues to assert its sovereignty or rights over the entire region of Kashmir, while Pakistan maintains that it is a disputed territory. In 2020–2021 India and Pakistan, both nuclear nations, clashed in border skirmishes in a series of armed clashes along the de facto border in the disputed region.