The Frontiers of Kashmir

By Geoffrey Cook, MMNS

2009-04-09T130401Z_01_SRI01_RTRMDNP_3_KASHMIR Orlando–April 3rd–Very few people in the West, who are otherwise aware of the Kashmir conflict, are cognizant that both the Pakistani Autonomous Region of Azad Kashmir and the Indian “State” of Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) have territories attached to them.  Azad has its Northern (high) Areas, and J & K has Ladakh, as well as China which holds a huge chunk of a mainly uninhabited portion of the former Princely State of the former British Colonial power.

Your author was on the e-list, and dialogued with an individual who was campaigning to win the independence of the former small princely state of Hunza from Pakistan, and, thus, would separate it from Azad Kashmir.

Your writer was fortunate to hear Daniela Bredi of Rome (Italy’s) comments here in Central Florida on the deep historical background that only recently led up to the Kargil conflict between the modern nuclear South Asian neighbors of India and Pakistan.  The affair was probably initiated by radicalized Islamist Arabs who had come down from Afghanistan, after the Soviet War, and appropriated the wintry heights above the Indian occupied territory below.  Your scribe does not assume — as many assert in the Occident — that this was a Pakistani conspiracy, but rather it was the initiative of these groups of freelancers who infiltrated over the Durand frontier to attack the Indian Army at the fringes of J & K.  Rawalpindi, then, made a decision that it was within their Generals strategic interests to back up the scheme of these irregulars.

The Professor, whose fieldwork and historical research cover this arena, emphasized that the modern Kargil was once known as the independent Muslim “Kingdom” of Purig, but today is an annexed District of Ladakh which is administered through occupied Kashmir.  The “District” of modern Kargil, the historical Purig, is a complex of high mountain valleys whose population is 80% Muslim.  Therefore, it is claimed by Pakistan due to its religion although that had nothing to do with the recent belligerence.

Ladakh other District is mainly Mahayana Buddhist.  Geographically Ladakh lies upon the Tibetan Plateau, and their culture is identical to Lhasa’s, and they look to the Dalai Lama’s government in Dharmsala for political and noetic leadership.  They, also, resent the Indian occupation, for New Delhi has instituted a similar policy as Peking has done to Tibet Major; i.e., making developmental improvements (such as irrigation that has made this high desert “bloom), but have settled their retired soldiers there Indianizing the Region; and, thereby, peripherializing the Ladkhis into a minority within their own land.

The Islamic people came into what is now the second District of the territory of Ladakh from Kashmir Proper (i.e., the Vale).  Since the raise of the Islamic Republic, the people of Kargil (Purig) were never under the sway of Islamabad.  There are two reasons for this:  When Ladakh was ceded to British India, they were already under Leh having been conquered by the Ladakhis in a past century.  Thus, when this region was divided by the Line of Control (LoC) – as finally determined by the Simila Agreement in 1971 — Ladakh was on the Indian side of the divide.  In one District the majority of Ladkhi society is Buddhist.  Yet, even in the Islamic District, the Muslims look to the Dalai Lama for political guidance, too. 

A mixed Muslim-Buddhist society adhered together without rancor until the British withdrew in 1947.  Upon the outburst of the protracted Kashmir struggle, the Buddhists became more assertive.  Accordingly, the Muslims began looking towards their cousins in the Vale as a political buttress even though in their immigration into the Mountains, they had taken up some Shia customs while those in the Valley remained staunchly Sunni.

Presently, India herself is seriously considering dividing “their” Administered State of Kashmir and Jammu into three autonomous regions based upon religion – the Islamic Vale, the Hindu and Sikh Jammu and Ladakh as a “Buddhist” Region.  Of course, this would lead to an uncertain political future for the present Islamic District of Kargil.  It is apparent that tensions would arise between the traditional Buddhists and Hindu settlers with the Muslim minority in the negotiations for any possible Constitution for a potential future Autonomous Region of Region of Ladakh. 


0 replies