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Wednesday, May 22, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Kashmir's origins of war

Two of the three wars that India and Pakistan have fought since gaining independence in 1947 have been over Kashmir, a Himalayan territory claimed by both countries.

Kashmir's troubles began in 1947, when Britain was preparing to leave India and partition the territory into two nations, India and Pakistan. The predominately Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir was ruled by a Hindu maharajah, Hari Singh.

Like the rulers of hundreds of other states under British control, the maharajah was instructed by the British to choose between India and Pakistan.

The maharajah went back and forth and could not make up his mind. In October 1947, an uprising by Kashmiris against the maharajah was aided by Pakistani troops. The maharajah fled Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, and signed a deal to join India in exchange for military support. The first war between India and Pakistan broke out.

Pakistan has never accepted the maharajah's decision as legitimate. Pakistani leaders believe Kashmir, with its Muslim majority, belonged to them.

When the first India-Pakistan war was over, Pakistan had seized a swath of northwestern Kashmir. Under a U.N.-negotiated cease-fire, India agreed to hold a plebiscite to allow Kashmiris to choose which nation they wanted to join.

But the plebiscite never happened, and that has become a rallying point for Pakistan's — and many Kashmiris' — outrage against India.

Analysts say a plebiscite that allows Kashmir to join Pakistan could inflame tensions between the Hindu majority and Muslim minority in India.

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