India Rejects Description of Kashmir As 'Most Dangerous Place'

By T.C. Malhotra | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

New Delhi ( - Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived in Pakistan Monday, to shore up support for Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is under tremendous pressure from radical Islamic elements within his own country for supporting the U.S. war on terrorism.

Powell is also expected to discuss longtime tensions between Pakistan and India over the disputed region of Kashmir. Both nations claim all of Muslim-majority Kashmir as their own, and they have fought two wars over it.

Ironically, Pakistan and India find themselves on the same side in the global realignment brought on by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Even though both nations support the Bush administration, that hasn't brought them any closer together.

Because both nations have nuclear arsenals, their longtime enmity is a serious concern for the Bush administration. The United States is particularly anxious to avoid any further escalation in violence over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

The prospect of escalation increased on Oct. 1, when a suicide bombing killed 38 people in Kashmir's summer capital, Srinagar. India blamed Pakistan-backed "terrorists." (See Earlier Story)

The Bush administration urged India to use restraint, and so far, India has done that. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said he believed India had decided to seek a peaceful solution, as the U.S. has urged.

Despite the fact that two wars have been fought over Kashmir, Indian officials recently rejected the U.S. description of Kashmir as the "most dangerous place in the world."

"I disagree with the assessment," Indian External Affairs and Defense Minister Jaswant Singh told reporters over the weekend, when he was asked for comment on a recent statement by Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage that Kashmir was "the most dangerous place in the world."

Singh said Afghanistan is the flashpoint in the region, not Kashmir.

Kashmir's troubled history

The Himalayan region of Kashmir was divided between India (predominantly Hindu) and Pakistan (predominantly Muslim) after those two nations gained independence from Britain in 1947. Both countries claim the entire region, and they have fought two wars over it.

While India claims Kashmir as an integral part of its nation, Pakistan asserts Kashmir's right to self-determination through a plebiscite, in accordance with an earlier Indian pledge and a UN resolution.

This dispute triggered wars between the two countries in 1947 and 1965. Large mountainous parts of Kashmir have been held by Pakistan since those two wars, and the border in this part of the country is called a Line of Control.

Since a 1971 war, Pakistan and India have made only slow progress in normalizing relations. In July 1972, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto met in the Indian hill station of Simla. They signed an agreement that called for resolving peacefully, through bilateral negotiations, the problems resulting from the war.

But for the last 12 years, more than a dozen Islamic militant groups have been fighting in India's Jammu-Kashmir state for independence from India.

Pakistan openly supports the Kashmiri militants but it denies India's claim that it arms and trains the rebels, including some who are loyal to Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia.