Kashmir Strategic Environment and Security Challenges
Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh have a common border with India's two contested neighbours Pakistan to the West and China in the East. These borders are disputed, and the present status is delineated as the Line of Control and Line of Actual Control with Pakistan and China, respectively.
The political and security situation in Jammu and Kashmir including Ladakh has the most significant impact on India Pakistan relations. Increasingly this has also assumed a vector in India China border relations.
While India perceives as the issue settled post the Karachi Agreement of 1949, Pakistan continues to harp on Jammu and Kashmir being a dispute.
J & K's defacto division between India and Pakistan with portions held by both the countries and the Aksai Chin and Shaksgam Valley by China denotes the realities on the ground.
Jammu and Kashmir were split in two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh and the special status accorded has been repealed by India on August 05, 2019.
This has led to protests bilaterally, and the issue has been taken up by China and Pakistan bilaterally as well as in international forums. Thus the strategic environment has remained contentious ever since the division of the State in 1947, which was also a disputed one and the present geographic holding represents the extent of military occupation achieved by India and Pakistan and by China in the years leading to 1962 India China War.
Given this disputed status states in question have used varied tools for sustaining their legitimacy, interests and influence, including war, insurgency, terrorism and diplomacy.
The present phase is focused primarily on terrorism and diplomacy.
Terror as a political tool ostensibly to support the separatist defined as, "freedom fighters," by Pakistan has rocked Jammu and Kashmir for the past three decades, first emerging in 1989. Up and down waves of terrorism have wracked the Kashmir Valley in particular and the Jammu region, with violence reaching an apogee in the early 2000s.
The present status of terror is defined by low violence but medium base with some support of the people at large, the latter being a function of alienation from the mainstream project India as well as fostered by constant flagging of this by Pakistan, the religious content being minimal but underlying.
Varied operational terror tools are being used, including indoctrination and training in camps across the Line of Control in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and Pakistani hinterland, infiltration on ground, and drones to drop arms targeting the soft and politically most significant such as elected district-level officials.
A new concern has emerged that of Taliban take over in Afghanistan which is expected to give an ideological and operational fillip to terrorism in J & K.
On the diplomatic front, Pakistan's constant efforts to flag the issue of J & K in international forums, including violation of freedoms remains the main contestation for now.
Politically post repealing of Article 370 and 35 A, the widespread resentment in Kashmir in particular is being slowly whittled down, and elections and restoration of the status of State remains the key trend ahead.