Jammu and Kashmir (Dogri: जम्मू और कश्मीर, Ladakhi: ཇ་མུ་དང་ཀ་ཤི་མིར།, Urdu: جموں اور کشمیر) is the northern most state of India. It is situated mostly in the Himalayan Mountains. Jammu and Kashmir shares a border with the states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab to the south and internationally with the People’s Republic of China to the north and east and the Pakistan-administered territories of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, to the west and northwest respectively.
Formerly a part of the erstwhile Princely State of Kashmir and Jammu, which governed the larger historic region of Kashmir, this territory is disputed among China, India and Pakistan. Pakistan, which claims the territory, refers to it as “Indian-occupied Kashmir” (IoK) while most international agencies, such as the United Nations, call it “Indian-administered Kashmir.”
Jammu and Kashmir consists of three regions: Jammu, the Kashmir valley and Ladakh. Srinagar is the summer capital, and Jammu is the winter capital. While the Kashmir valley is famous for its beautiful mountainous landscape, Jammu’s numerous shrines attract tens of thousands of Hindu pilgrims every year. Ladakh, also known as “Little Tibet”, is renowned for its remote mountain beauty and Buddhist culture.
Hari Singh had ascended the throne of Kashmir in 1925 and was the reigning monarch at the conclusion of British rule in the subcontinent in 1947. As a part of the partition process, both countries had agreed that the rulers of princely states would be given the right to opt for either Pakistan or India or — in special cases — to remain independent. In 1947, Kashmir’s population was 77% Muslim and it shared a boundary with Pakistan. On 20 October 1947, tribesmen backed by Pakistan invaded Kashmir.
The Maharaja initially fought back but appealed for assistance to the Governor-General Louis Mountbatten, who agreed on the condition that the ruler accedes to India. On October 25th 1947, Maharaja Hari Singh signed the Instrument of Accession and it was executed on October 27, 1947 between the ruler of Kashmir and the Governor General of India. Once the papers of accession to India were signed, Indian soldiers entered Kashmir with orders to stop any further occupation, but they were not allowed to expel anyone from the state. India took the matter to the United Nations. The UN resolution asked both India and Pakistan to vacate the areas they have occupied and hold a referendum under UN observation. The holding of this plebiscite, which India initially supported, was dismissed by India because the 1952 elected Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir voted in favor of confirming the Kashmir region’s accession to India. Another reason for the abandonment of the referendum is because demographic changes, after 1947, have been effected in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, as generations of Pakistani individual’s non-native to the region have been allowed to take residence in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. Furthermore, in Indian-administered Kashmir, the demographics of the Kashmir Valley have also been altered after separatist militants coerced 1/4 million Kashmiri Hindus to leave the region. Moreover, Pakistan failed to withdraw its troops from the Kashmir region as was required under the same U.N. resolution of August 13, 1948 which discussed the plebiscite.
Diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan soured for many other reasons, and eventually resulted in three further wars in Kashmir the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, the Indo-Pakistan War of 1971 and the Kargil War in 1999. India has control of 60% of the area of the former Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir; Pakistan controls 30% of the region, known as Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. China has since occupied 10% of the state in 1962.
The eastern region of the erstwhile princely state of Kashmir has also been beset with a boundary dispute. In the late 19th- and early 20th centuries, although some boundary agreements were signed between Great Britain, Tibet, Afghanistan and Russia over the northern borders of Kashmir, China never accepted these agreements, and the official Chinese position did not change with the communist takeover in 1949. By the mid-1950s the Chinese army had entered the north-east portion of Ladakh:
By 1956–57 they had completed a military road through the Aksai Chin area to provide better communication between Xinjiang and western Tibet. India’s belated discovery of this road led to border clashes between the two countries that culminated in the Sino-Indian war of October 1962. China has occupied Aksai Chin since 1962 and, in addition, an adjoining region, the Trans-Karakoram Tract was ceded by Pakistan to China in 1963.
For intermittent periods between 1957, when the state approved its own Constitution, to the death of Sheikh Abdullah in 1982, the state had alternating spells of stability and discontent. In the late 1980s however, simmering discontent over the high-handed policies of the Union Government and allegations of the rigging of the 1987 assembly elections triggered a violent uprising which was backed by Pakistan.
Since then, the region has seen a prolonged, bloody conflict between militants and the Indian Army, both of whom have been accused of widespread human rights abuses, including abductions, massacres, rape and looting. The army has officially denied these allegations. However, militancy in the state has been on the decline since 1996, also again in 2004 with the peace process with India and Pakistan. Furthermore the situation has become increasingly peaceful in recent years.
Geography and climate
Karakoram West Tibetan Plateau alpine steppe near Ladakh, India
Jammu and Kashmir is home to several valleys such as the Kashmir Valley, Tawi Valley, Chenab Valley, Poonch Valley, Sind Valley and Lidder Valley. The main Kashmir valley is 100 km (62 mi) wide and 15,520.3 km2 (5,992.4 sq. mi) in area. The Himalayas divide the Kashmir valley from Ladakh while the Pir Panjal range, which encloses the valley from the west and the south, separates it from the Great Plains of northern India. Along the northeastern flank of the Valley runs the main range of the Himalayas. This densely settled and beautiful valley has an average height of 1,850 meters (6,070 ft) above sea-level but the surrounding Pir Panjal range has an average elevation of 5,000 meters (16,000 ft).
Because of Jammu and Kashmir’s wide range of elevations, its Biogeography is diverse. Northwestern thorn scrub forests and Himalayan subtropical pine forests are found in the low elevations of the far southwest. These give way to a broad band of western Himalayan broadleaf forests running from northwest-southeast across the Kashmir Valley. Rising into the mountains, the broadleaf forests grade into western Himalayan subalpine conifer forests. Above tree line are found northwestern Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows. Much of the northeast of the state is covered by the Karakoram-West Tibetan Plateau alpine steppe. Around the highest elevations, there is no vegetation, simply rock and ice.
The Jhelum River is the only major Himalayan River which flows through the Kashmir valley. The Indus, Tawi, Ravi and Chenab are the major rivers flowing through the state. Jammu and Kashmir is home to several Himalayan glaciers. With an average altitude of 5,753 meters (18,875 ft) above sea-level, the Siachen Glacier is 70 km (43 mi) long making it the longest Himalayan glacier.
The climate of Jammu and Kashmir varies greatly owing to its rugged topography. In the south around Jammu, the climate is typically monsoonal, though the region is sufficiently far west to average 40 to 50 mm (1.6 to 2 inches) of rain per months between January and March. In the hot season, Jammu city is very hot and can reach up to 40 °C (104 °F) whilst in July and August, very heavy though erratic rainfall occurs with monthly extremes of up to 650 millimeters (25.5 inches). In September, rainfall declines, and by October conditions are hot but extremely dry, with minimal rainfall and temperatures of around 29 °C (84 °F).
Across from the Pir Panjal range, the South Asian monsoon is no longer a factor and most precipitation falls in the spring from southwest cloud bands. Because of its closeness to the Arabian Sea, Srinagar receives as much as 25 inches (635 millimeters) of rain from this source, with the wettest months being March to May with around 85 millimeters (3.3 inches) per month. Across from the main Himalaya Range, even the southwest cloud bands break up and the climate of Ladakh and Zanskar is extremely dry and cold. Annual precipitation is only around 100 mm (4 inches) per year and humidity is very low. This region, almost all above 3,000 meters (9,750 ft) above sea level and winters are extremely cold. In Zanskar, the average January temperature is −20 °C (−4 °F) with extremes as low as −40 °C (−40 °F). All the rivers freeze over and locals actually do river crossings during this period because their high levels from glacier melt in summer inhibits crossing. In summer in Ladakh and Zanskar, days are typically a warm 20°C (68 °F) but with the low humidity and thin air nights can still be cold.