Kashmir Dispute Has Roots in Colonial History

The 10 gunmen who terrorized Mumbai in last week's coordinated attacks are suspected of belonging to a militant group based in Kashmir. Victoria Schofield, a freelance journalist and author of several books including Kashmir in Conflict, offers her insight into the conflict.

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MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

Indian officials have said the Mumbai attacks were carried out by a militant group that has long been trying to drive India out of Kashmir. That's the region long disputed between India and Pakistan. The mere mention of Kashmir ratcheted up the tensions between the two nuclear-armed rivals and raised new worries about the military standoff at the line of control that divides the two countries.

NORRIS: India, Pakistan, and the Unending War." Ms. Schofield, welcome to the program.

VICTORIA SCHOFIELD: Thank you.

NORRIS: Could you do us a favor and put this on a map for us? Where exactly is Kashmir?

SCHOFIELD: Well, we're talking about a region in the north of the subcontinent. It's right up high where the Himalayan mountains meet the Hindu Kush in the Karakorums, and it's an extremely beautiful area. However, since 1948, it has been divided on the ground between Pakistan and India, roughly two-thirds are controlled by India, one-third is controlled by Pakistan. It's divided at what was a ceasefire line, and it's now called the Line of Control. This effectively is the de facto border, although it's not recognized by either country.

NORRIS: How did it come to be administered by both of these countries?

SCHOFIELD: Well, at the time of partition in 1947, both countries claimed the - as it was princely state of Jamun, Kashmir, it was one of over 560 princely states. And because it had a majority Muslim population, roughly 75 percent of its population were Muslim, Pakistan believed that it would come to be part of Pakistan. However, India maintaining that it was a secular state, saw no reason why the state could not be included within India. A war was fought, and this is where the - effectively, the troops stopped fighting when a ceasefire was organized under the Auspices of the United Nations in 1948.

NORRIS: And that's that border now, the so-called Line of Control.

SCHOFIELD: Yes, that's - that's exactly where it always was, effectively.

NORRIS: In terms of this region and its connection to the militant group that is thought to be responsible for the Mumbai attacks, what is that connection?

SCHOFIELD: Well, the connection which is being made is the fact that the Lashkar-e-Taiba, soldiers of the pure is the English translation of it's name, is widely believed to have been behind the Mumbai attacks. And this group was formed in the middle '90s as one of many militant groups that were fighting for Kashmir's liberation from India.

NORRIS: There have been suggestions, quiet suggestions that Pakistan has secretly backed terrorist groups or has turned a blind eye towards some of these groups. Is there any truth to that?

SCHOFIELD: There is no doubt that in the early 1990s, the Pakistan government through the Inter-Services Intelligence, the ISI, was quietly supporting various militant groups. But this situation changed dramatically after September the 11th and, indeed, after the attack on the Delhi parliament. And in 2002, the former President Musharaf outlawed the major militant groups, even the Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was banned in 2002.

It resurfaced as the Jamat u Dawa, the party of the calling. And, you know, you can criticize the government of Pakistan for not being more vigilant after the event, but it's actually quite difficult to arrest the citizens until they've actually committed, say, an act of terror.

NORRIS: Victoria Schofield is a freelance journalist. She's also the author of several books about Kashmir, including "Kashmir in Conflict" and "Kashmir in the Crossfire: India, Pakistan, and the Unending War." Ms. Schofield, thanks for talking to us.

SCHOFIELD: Thank you very much.

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