Bosphorus Center for Asian Studies


Kashmir Problem in the Triangle of Pakistan-India-China

The ’Kashmir Problem’ has emerged as a result of the independence of India and Pakistan from Britain in 1947. In this study, the historical background of the Kashmir problem, in which regional and international actors play a role, has been examined based on the reflections of the actors and the problem on the relations between the countries in the region.


Geopolitics and Strategic Position

Kashmir is an area of 86,000 square miles in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent. Kashmir is adjacent to Afghanistan and China in the north, Pakistan to the south and west, and India to the east and south. The region, known as ‘Kashmir Heaven Valley’, has natural beauties as well as underground wealth. It is also an important transit point for energy. Water resources in the region are very important for Pakistani and Indian agriculture and energy. The Himalayas and Karakorum, Pir Panjal Range, which are the highest mountain ranges of the world, are united in Kashmir. Kashmir is rich in underground mines and has gold, emerald and ruby reserves.


Demographic Structure

According to the 1941 census, 77% of the region consisted of Muslims, 20% Hindu and 3% Buddhists and Sikhs. According to the 2011 census, approximately 68.3% of the population are Muslims, 28.4% are Hindus, 1.7% are Sikhs, 0.7% are Buddhists and 0.5% are Christians. In 2018, the estimated population of the region exceeded 14 million.


The State of Kashmir After 1947

In 1947, with the freedom of the Indian subcontinent and the end of the British colony, a new country called Pakistan was established, while India declared its independence. One of the three regions after the independence is Jammu Kashmir. While the other two regions were included in India, Kashmir region, of which 77% of the population formed by Muslims, did not want to be part of India. In 1947 there were internal disturbances in Kashmir who wanted to remain as an independent region. The war between Pakistan and India on 26 October 1947 was the first war in the context of the Kashmir problem. As a result of this war, 1/3 of Kashmir was included in Pakistan and the rest was included in India. In 1948, the UN proposed a referendum for the Kashmiri people to self-determination. This recommendation was not accepted by India. India argues that with a 1947 document Kashmir should go under Indian rule.

In 1965 there was a second war between Pakistan and India. In 1972, the Simla Agreement was signed by the two countries and the Control Line was officially recognized. This is seen by many authorities as a renunciation of Pakistan. In 1980-1990, the people of Kashmiri, who were not satisfied with the Indian administration, started an uprising. Tens of thousands of people died in the revolt


The Problem Turns into a Nuclear Competition 

India’s first underground nuclear bomb test in 1974 led to a change in regional balance. This move encouraged Pakistan to have a nuclear power. With the support of China, Pakistan succeeded in its nuclear tests in 1998. In 2010, Pakistan turned nuclear power in its favor. India and Pakistan have continued to increase nuclear armament since 1998 and have become the two nuclear powers of South Asia.


Importance of Kashmir for Pakistan

Kashmir has two important implications for Pakistan, which argued since 1947 that a referendum should be held in Kashmir in accordance with the proposal of the UN. First of all, the fact that more than 60% of Kashmiri people are Muslims increase the importance of the region for Pakistan. Secondly, Pakistan’s hydroelectric power plants in Kashmir will be an important source of income.

North of Kashmir is ruled by Pakistan. To the west of the region is the Islamic Republic of Azad Kashmir, recognized only by Pakistan. Pakistan governs approximately 35% of Kashmir.


Importance of Kashmir for India

India does not want to lose control of the region of which 20% of the population is formed by Hindus. On the other hand, the administration of Pakistan by the region may put India at a disadvantage. India claims that Pakistan has supported terrorist organizations through separatist groups in Kashmir and wants the international public to accept these claims. India rejects all mediation activities and tries to prevent a referendum in the region. The reason behind this attitude is that India is a multi-ethnic country. India admits that Kashmir has a Muslim majority but claims to be an integral part of India.

India controls the southern part of Kashmir. This region is called the Jammu-Kashmir region. Approximately 45% of Kashmir is controlled by India. Kashmir’s strategic points are under the control of India. This gives India an advantage in governing the region.


Importance of Kashmir for China

China rejects claims that Kashmir is an integral part of India. After the Chinese-Indian war in 1962, China was actively involved in the process. At the end of the war, the Aksai China region, which is connected to Kashmir, has been controlled by China.

In the 1970s, with the deterioration of China-India relations, China started to take side with Pakistan. Since the 1980s, China has been trying to maintain a more balanced policy. China controls approximately 20% of Kashmir. China does not support a possible scenario of independence, such as India, and avoids that it would set an example in its own country.


Kashmir Today

The Kashmir problem, where many local and international actors play a role, has not been resolved for more than 70 years. The fact that Pakistan and India see the Kashmir region as an integral part of their territory, and the fact that India does not allow international solutions, make the problem inextricable. In the region where frequent hot conflicts take place, more than 50 thousand people lost their lives and 1.5 million people became homeless.

The Kashmir issue, which brought India and Pakistan from time to time on the verge of a nuclear war, is one of the major reasons for instability in the region. On the other hand, 15 million people in the region continue to live in an environment where there is no prosperity and peace.

Especially in the Jammu Kashmir region, which is mainly ruled by India, the Indian army intervenes in the resistance. In June 2018, 6 alleged insurgents were killed by the army. As a result, today Kashmir is identified as one of the most militarized regions in the world.