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The 1947-8 Kashmir conflict as an extension of colonial tribal insurgencies

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In 1947, shortly after the partition of South Asia, war erupted between newly independent India and Pakistan over the future of the princely state of Kashmir. While various factors led the conflict to gain international proportions, with the ultimate intervention of the United Nations, the war on the ground began as an incursion by the Pathan tribesmen of Pakistan’s North-West Frontier, an attack reminiscent of tribal insurgencies of the colonial period. The frontier tribesmen had created huge military and financial constraints on the Raj, necessitating large British garrisons throughout the tribal zone; with the British withdrawal, the tribesmen turned their focus to Kashmir, instigating raids and attacks redolent of earlier assaults on the British and the settled districts of colonial India. This paper takes a new approach to the Kashmir conflict, focusing on the tribesmen’s role in Kashmir as a continuation of colonial tribal unrest. It considers the tribesmen’s local motivations and tactics and their religious ties to Kashmir in the context of colonial British military policy and the transition to a new Pakistani tribal policy. Recognizing the magnitude of this time period for Pakistan, this paper ultimately reflects on the tribal incursions in Kashmir as a microcosm of Pakistan’s broader struggles to secure its position within regional and international political systems.

This talk is part of the Violence and Conflict Graduate Workshop, Faculty of History series.

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