Kashmir is a region located in the north-western part of the Indian subcontinent. It includes the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir as well as the Pakistani states of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir. The Chinese regions of Aksai Chin and Trans-Karakoram are also included in Kashmir. Currently, the United Nations refers to this region as Jammu and Kashmir.
The vast majority of the state’s territory is mountainous, and the physiography is divided into seven zones that are closely associated with the structural components of the western Himalayas. From southwest to northeast those zones consist of the plains, the foothills, the Pir Panjal Range, the Vale of Kashmir, the Great Himalayas zone, the upper Indus Rivervalley, and the Karakoram Range.
Kashmir is significant to geographic studies because its status is disputed, which often causes conflict to develop in the region.
The Kashmir dispute dates from 1947. Because of its location, Kashmir could choose to join either India or Pakistan. Maharaja Hari Singh, the ruler of Kashmir, was Hindu while most of his subjects were Muslim. Unable to decide which nation Kashmir should join, Hari Singh chose to remain neutral, but his hopes of remaining independent were dashed in October 1947, as Pakistan sent in Muslim tribesmen who were knocking at the gates of the capital Srinagar. Hari Singh appealed to the Indian government for military assistance and fled to India. He signed the Instrument of Accession, ceding Kashmir to India on October 26.
Localized warfare continued during 1948 and ended, through the intercession of the United Nations, in a cease-fire that took effect in January 1949. In July of that year, India and Pakistan defined a cease-fire line—the line of control—that divided the administration of the territory. Regarded at the time as a temporary expedient, the partition along that line still exists.
Today, Kashmir is administered by India, Pakistan and China. The entire region is prone to violent seismic activity, and light to moderate tremors are common.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir retains a special status within the union government of India. Unlike the rest of the states, which are bound by the Indian constitution, Jammu and Kashmir follows a modified version of that constitution. Under the constitution of Jammu and Kashmir, the governor, who is the head of state, is appointed by the president of India and is aided and advised by an elected chief minister and a council of ministers.
The cultural, ethnic, and linguistic composition of Jammu and Kashmir varies across the state by region. About two-thirds of the population adheres to Islam, a greater proportion than in any other Indian state; Hindus constitute most of the remaining third. There also are small minorities of Sikhs and Buddhists. Urdu is the state’s official language.
Kashmir's economy is mostly made up of agriculture that takes place in its fertile valley areas. Rice, corn, wheat, barley, fruits and vegetables are the main crops grown in Kashmir while lumber and the raising of livestock also play a role in its economy. In addition, small-scale handicrafts and tourism are important to the area.
Even at the end of the second decade of the new millennium, Kashmir continues to burn - torn between internal clashes among factions with divergent viewpoints about the future of the state and external rivalry between the two nations that claim Kashmir is theirs. Hopefully, peace will return to Kashmir -followed by tourists, who remember its beautiful parks, rolling meadows, spectacular mountains and scenic destinations with nostalgia.