The name Kashmir is used to include the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir, the Pakistan-administered state of Gilgit-Baltistan (formerly the Northern Areas) and Azad Kashmir and Jammu, and the Chinese-administered regions of Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract.
None of the sides have accepted the occupations of the other sides to be permanent। India claims the entirety of the area to be Indian, whereas Pakistan generally takes the line that the area is disputed. It is illegal for maps in India to display the area as anything other than fully Indian, but the majority of international maps consider the area to be in dispute.
How did the dispute start?
The dispute over Kashmir is a result of Britain's hasty decolonizing program in 1947. Kashmir was ruled by a monarch, under British tutelage, for the majority of the colonial period, and when Britain split the country into India and Pakistan, it was decided that the princely states would choose themselves whether to join India or Pakistan, or to remain independent.
Jammu and Kashmir was the largest princely state, and while it had a Hindu ruler – Maharaja Hari Singh – it was predominantly Muslim, and on partition Pakistan expected Kashmir to be annexed to it.
When Singh failed to make a decision either way after the 14-15th August Independence days passed, Pakistani tribals and militias entered Kashmir, intending, essentially, to frighten the Maharaja into submission. Instead, Singh appealed to the British governor-general, Lord Mountbatten, and the new government of India for assistance. India could not help, however, because India and Pakistan had signed an agreement of non-intervention. Although tribal fighters from Pakistan had entered the territory, there was no conclusive evidence that the government of Pakistan was officially involved, and so it would have been illegal for India to enter without Singh acceding to India.
Singh became desperate when Pakistani tribals reached the outskirts of Srinagar, and so Singh signed an agreement, known as the 'Instrument of Accession' with Lord Mountbatten, ceding Jammu and Kashmir to India. Indian soldiers entered Kashmir soon after and drove the Pakistani tribals from all but a small section of the state, and in December 1948 a ceasefire was agreed under UN auspices.
The UN Security Council passed Resolution 39 in January 1948, establishing a special commission to investigate the conflict, and passed Resolution 47 in April of the same year, which ordered the Pakistani army to retreat from Jammu and Kashmir and for a plebiscite to be held in which those habiting in Jammu and Kashmir would determine their nationality. Pakistan failed to remove their military presence, and so India argued that the plebiscite could not go ahead. Ownership of Kashmir has been disputed ever since.
When did China get involved?
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Great Britain tried to establish the northern boundaries of Kashmir through agreements with Afghanistan and Russia. China, however, never accepted these agreements, and considers parts of eastern Jammu and Kashmir to be part of Tibet, and therefore Chinese.
In the early 1950s, the Chinese army started extending its reach, and since then have occupied what they call Aksai Chin. In 1962, China and India fought a brief border war over various areas under dispute, including Aksai Chin, and Chinese success meant that they have administered the area since. The line that serves as the border in this region is called the 'Line of Actual Control'.
Another portion of land, called the Trans-Karakorum Tract was ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963.
The dispute over Kashmir has resulted in numerous conflicts between India and Pakistan and has been a major thorn of the sides of the neighbours' relations since their inception in 1947.
Particular incidents of note include the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, a five week war that started after tens of thousands of Pakistani soldiers crossed the 'Line of Control' dressed as Kashmiri locals. After trading territory for a few weeks, a stalemate was reached, and a ceasefire was negotiated in Tashkent, with both sides agreeing to return to the pre-war lines.
Tensions began to rise again after a disputed election in Kashir in 1987, and what started as a peaceful rebellion against the Indian government became an armed uprising. The first armed rebel group was the indigenous Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) but Islamic militant groups proliferated rapidly.
The position of Pakistan in the rebels' actions is debated. Based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, they found financing and recruited from within Pakistan. India and many international observers believe they were – and are – aided and guided by Pakistan's intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), although Pakistan maintains they receive only moral support and diplomatic support.
In mid-1999, insurgents and Pakistani soldiers infiltrated into Jammu and Kashmir. During the inhospitable winter months, Indian forces regularly move to lower altitudes, leaving the LOC vacant. The insurgents took advantage of their absence and occupied the mountain peaks of the Kargil range, thereby blocking the highway that connects Srinagar and Leh. This highway is the only link between the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh and Pakistan's actions sparked high-scale conflict between the two armies. Initially, Pakistan blamed the fighting entirely on independent Kashmiri insurgents, but it soon became clear that Pakistani paramilitary forces were involved. The Indian Army, supported by the Air Force, recaptured most of the positions, and both sides received intense international pressure to withdraw given their nuclear capabilities.
In the aftermath of the Kargil War, relations were severed, nationalism rose on both sides, and India took steps to increase its military preparedness. Relations since 2000 have risen and fallen: Pakistan clamped down on insurgent action in Kashmir in 2002, prompting a thaw in relations, but this was only successful for a few years, and relations took a severe hit in 2008 when Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a militant group with alleged links to the ISI, attacked Mumbai.
Talks between the two sides resumed in early 2010, but with strong levels of mutual mistrust, it is unclear what will happen.
For more information, including analysis of possible settlement routes, see the full Menas Borders' Border Focus.