The Indian government has inflamed its decades-long dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir, a mountainous region claimed by both countries. On Monday, New Delhi revoked a section of its constitution that granted the India-controlled part of Kashmir some autonomy, prompting protests and heightening the risk of conflict between the nuclear-armed rivals.
What is Kashmir’s status?
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region, has been claimed by both Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan since the end of British colonial rule in 1947. The region is now separated by the 450-mile Line of Control, with hundreds of thousands of troops stationed there. Disputes over Kashmir’s status have fueled three wars and periodic bouts of violence. Kashmiri separatist groups, who have long resisted India’s control, exacerbate those tensions. China also claims a small part of the region.
The India-controlled part, which makes up about 45 percent of Kashmir, has been officially recognized by New Delhi as the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Home to more than twelve million people, roughly 1 percent of India’s population, it is the country’s only Muslim-majority state. India’s constitution—specifically Article 370—for the past seventy years allowed the state to make its own laws. It also effectively banned nonresidents from buying property and working in local government.
But Jammu and Kashmir’s special status ended this week when New Delhi abolished Article 370. The government, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, also announced that Jammu and Kashmir would be downgraded from state and split into two union territories, giving New Delhi more control over the area’s affairs.
Pakistan condemned India’s move, saying it would consider “all possible options to counter the illegal steps.” At the same time, the United Nations urged both countries to exercise restraint. While Islamabad has previously welcomed outside mediation to resolve the Kashmir issue, India has consistently resisted it, and diplomatic talks have been stalled for years.