Will Kashmir Stop India's Rise?

The city of Muzafarabad, Pakistan lays in ruins after the 2005 Kashmir earthquake that hit the region. Timothy Smith, U.S. Navy


Over the past several years, India's economic growth, diplomatic influence, and overall prestige have increased sharply. The country's new international profile adds a fresh dimension to its ongoing clash with Pakistan over Kashmir. So far, the conflict has not hindered India's rise. But the prospects that the two sides will reach a settlement on their own are dim.

Although it is unlikely that the issue will frustrate India's ambitions to emerge as an Asian -- and a global -- power, periodic crises over the state will distract India's leaders, and tensions with Pakistan could spark yet another war. The United States can, and should, play a role in facilitating an end to the conflict by prodding both sides to reach an accord. Doing so will require that Washington change its stance toward both India and Pakistan, but the potential rewards -- peace on the subcontinent and a solid strategic partnership between Washington and New Delhi -- are well worth the effort.

The dispute over Kashmir has dogged relations between India and Pakistan since the states were created by the partition of British India in 1947. The two countries have fought three wars (in 1947-48, 1965, and 1999) over the issue and related matters; twice (in 1990 and 2001-2) they nearly resorted to the use of nuclear weapons. Intense international concern has prompted multilateral efforts to broker a formal conclusion to the dispute. Yet neither war nor negotiation has brought the issue any closer to a resolution, and there has been no significant change in the territory's status since the two sides first exchanged shots nearly 60 years ago. (India controls approximately two-thirds of the original state, and Pakistan administers most of the remainder. In 1963, Pakistan ceded a small tract of its territorial claim in northern Kashmir to China, thereby enabling China to build a road to connect the provinces of Tibet and Xinjiang).

The conflict grew out of competing projects of nation building. New Delhi insisted on holding on to Kashmir in order to

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