Last week’s newspapers had reference to LOC (Line of Control) several times due to the killing of soldiers on either side. India and Pakistan blamed each other for violating the ceasefire. The two countries have been at loggerheads over Kashmir for many years now.
After India got its independence from the British rule, and after the formation of Pakistan, the two nations fought their first war over the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
When India was freed from British rule, the rulers of the princely states had to decide whether they wished to join India or Pakistan. The geographical location of Jammu and Kashmir is such that it is sandwiched between the two countries. The ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, could not come to a conclusion. It is believed that since the ruler was a Hindu and the majority of the population was Muslim, he was reluctant to take a stand. He is believed to have signed a standstill agreement with Pakistan which aimed at ensuring that trade, communication etc would go on smoothly.
When the law and order situation in the state went out of control after Pakistan tribesmen supported by the army infiltrated the state, the ruler asked for armed assistance from India.
Lord Mountbatten, who was then the Governor General of India, thought that if the state would become part of India, it would ease the situation. It was also agreed upon that this was only a temporary arrangement prior to ‘a referendum, plebiscite, election’.
Under the supervision of the United Nations, they agreed upon a ceasefire which would leave one-third of the state including Northern areas with Pakistan and two-thirds (inclusive of Jammu, Ladakh, Kashmir Valley) with India.
The de facto boundary divides the region into two, delineated on maps has not been fully physically demarcated, which has led to problems again and again.
India has been trying hard to make the LOC the internationally accepted boundary but without much success.
The line of control which was earlier called the Ceasefire Line – runs some 700 km dividing Kashmir. The LOC is a meandering line where several villages are split between India and Pakistan.
In the 1971 war, which led to the formation of Bangladesh, India is believed to have gained control of about 300 square miles of line in the Ladakh area. Negotiations between the sides and the famous Simla Agreement in 1972 helped in establishing the Line of Control. Both sides had agreed to respect this agreement until a solution is reached.
Pakistan is opposed to making the Line of Control as the international border since the Kashmir Valley which has a majority of Muslims, would then become part of India. Activists in Kashmir have also been fighting for independence for a part or whole of the state since 1989.