| It never changes|
|A view to kill|
“”"That India is on Siachen [glacier], and in control if it, is a sign that we can be a superpower."
|— Lt. Col. J.S. Pundir, bragging about occupying an inhospitable and useless wasteland.|
Kashmir is the northernmost region of the Indian subcontinent, where the world's first-, second-, and sixth-most populous countries are all wedged into each other.. It is currently occupied by three nations. Jammu and Kashmir is controlled by India, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are administered by Pakistan, and Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract are occupied by China. Being a large and diverse region, India has several hot spots, but none is so persistent as the disputes over Kashmir.
After having spent centuries being tossed around like a football between Hindu, Muslim, and Buddhist rulers, Kashmir was annexed by the Sikhs. The Sikhs in turn came under the rule of the British Empire, becoming one of the princely states which comprised the Raj. This lasted until 1947, when the British Raj was divided between Muslim and Hindu majority areas. India and Pakistan both claimed Kashmir. The region is still disputed, and it's a big part of why India and Pakistan hate each other. Unfortunately, both countries have nuclear weapons.
A brief, sad history
Fighting over Kashmir
When India and Pakistan won independence in 1947, Muslims and Hindus largely went their own ways into their respective countries. However, areas with religiously diverse populations had to actually pick a team. One of those princely states was called Jammu and Kashmir, which had been annexed by the British after the First Anglo-Sikh War. The state's ruler, Maharajah Hari Singh, preferred to take a stab at remaining independent of both, and to this end he played the diplomacy game to bounce the big boys off of one another. This didn't work out as he hoped. Kashmir's Islamic majority rose up in rebellion almost immediately, and Pakistan's Pashtun tribesmen decided to settle the issue by hopping across the border to take that shit for themselves. Singh asked India to save him, and the Indians only responded on the condition that he join their country. India sent the troops, and the world got the First Kashmir War. A little over a year (and five thousand corpses) later, the UN managed to mediate a truce which created a "Line of Control" between Indian and Pakistani forces. Having come away with two-thirds of Kashmir, India decided they won. No one claimed the Siachen glacier, because why the fuck would anyone want a useless chunk of ice at an altitude where no one can breathe? Just wait.
Fighting over Tibet
After the Chinese Civil War, Mao focused on stomping into Tibet. Tibet had previously claimed part of Kashmir, called Aksai Chin, and the Chinese decided they'd like to have that bit too, thank you very much. After India granted asylum to the Dalai Lama, tensions flared, and the lack of a settlement over the territory led to the Sino-Indian War in 1962. After another five thousand dead people, China declared a unilateral cease-fire. India still claims Aksai Chin, but they seem prepared to accept the loss, probably because Aksai Chin is an arid goddamn salt flat. Just to screw them a bit more, India's two enemies signed the Sino-Pakistan Agreement. where the two countries traded some land and did a high five.
Fighting over Kashmir, again
Still coveting that sweet, sweet land in Kashmir, Pakistan took a shot at sending spies and soldiers to infiltrate the Indian zone and attempt to spark a Muslim uprising. This naturally sparked yet another goddamn war in the region in 1965 when India retaliated by invading the Pakistan zone. With the world powers no longer distracted by other affairs, the conflict evolved into another Cold War proxy fight between the USA and the USSR. Despite the modern American opinion of the two countries, the USA ended up supplying aid to Pakistan, which at the time was a relatively moderate Muslim state and anti-communist to boot. The UN once again mandated a cease-fire. Kashmir fell back into geopolitical limbo.
Fighting over Bangladesh
In 1971, India and Pakistan decided to go for round three. This time, the war had its roots outside Kashmir. A disputed election in Pakistan resulted in East Pakistan declaring independence and calling itself Bangladesh. The war also involved the 1971 Bangladesh genocide where Pakistani forces slaughtered between 300,000 and 3,000,000 Bengalis and raped hundreds of thousands more. When the Bengalis asked for Indian assistance, India gladly took the chance to screw over their longtime foe by training and arming Bengali fighters. Pakistan retaliated by launching an air attack against a number of Indian airfields. Fought mostly between navies and air forces, the war resulted in a military Indian victory, forcing Pakistan to concede Bangladesh. Despite the loss of East Pakistan, it was not a victory for India because the Kashmir issue remained unsettled. Pakistan's leader warned the Indian diplomats that chaos and a "Versailles Syndrome" would result if India treated his country too harshly. Once again, Kashmir fell into political limbo.
Fighting over a glacier
Now the Siachen glacier enters the story. Through all of this madness, the glacier wasn't handed to either country, because again, who would want it? However, US maps put it in Pakistan's territory for convenience, and mountain climbers tended to ask their government for permission to explore. However, in the late 1970s, India decided to go poking around Siachen, and Pakistan noticed. Then Pakistan shat a brick. Both countries decided that a glacier three miles high was a vital military victory point. The Pakistanis flew a permanent military garrison, and India found out when their military ordered winter clothing from the same British store where Pakistan was buying their stuff. No, really. The two countries have been skirmishing over the glacier for years, but more soldiers have died from avalanches, exposure, and oxygen deprivation. The death toll is estimated to be between three and five thousand people. This is all for a glacier where soldiers can't climb three feet without stopping to catch their breath due to the atmospheric conditions. This is all for a glacier where the soldiers can't touch their gun's trigger for more than a handful of seconds without risking frostbite. While the fighting has mostly stopped, both countries maintain garrisons there just in case, to an annual cost of about half a billion dollars per year.
Various insurgencies have also sprung up in Kashmir seeking a merger with Pakistan, a merger with India, and outright independence. Both India and Pakistan have suffered terrorist attacks, and both nations maintain a heavy military presence in the area. Despite skirmishes and attacks continuing into the 21st Century and tens of thousands of deaths due to terrorism, relations between the countries have begun to thaw slightly, beginning with the opening of trade routes across the Line of Control. Terrorism still continues to this day, with groups recruiting from the disgruntled populace. Even Al-Qaeda has gotten involved. Narendra Modi's government has recently opened talks with Pakistan and separatist groups as of October 2017, so hope for a settlement is now very dim but real.
Of course, neither India or Pakistan will get the whole cake; they're gonna have to slice it in some fashion. Independence seems to be just another recipe for a civil war between Hindus and Muslims. That solution would also validate separatist movements across both countries, ultimately leading to more terrorism. And finally, neither India nor Pakistan can be perceived as giving too much away to the other side.
That would be bad, too.
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