A very detailed and dense account of the origin of the conflict and of the course it has taken up to 2003, when the second edition of this book was published. It suffers from two drawbacks for those readers who are not already quite intimately knowledgeable: the first is the use of Indian words for administrative districts, titles etc. The Glossary lists only the many political organizations mentioned in the text (and that list is incomplete): it needs to be much more extensive and also to include abbreviations. The second is that, although there are nine maps, many places mentioned in the text cannot be found on any of them, and it takes time to look for them on all the nine maps.
Victoria Schofield quotes conflicting statements made by various politicians, observers and in memoirs after the events, generally without committing herself to which is correct. Even so, what surely emerges from this account is that India has no real moral case and must bear the major responsibility for the troubles in Kashmir.
The Sikh dynasty which was ruling Kashmir before 1947 was unpopular with the majority of its people, not only because 80% of the population were Muslim, but also because the dynasty was autocratic. The Maharajah would have liked to remain independent of both India and Pakistan (he naturally refused a plebiscite on the issue), but for the ten weeks following the independence of India and Pakistan, he took a number of steps which enraged his Muslim subjects: he disarmed the Muslim but not the Hindu troops that had served in the army of British India; and the Muslims then purchased arms from the Muslim tribesmen in the North-West Frontier Province. Soon these tribesmen staged incursions into Kashmir and forced the Maharajah to flee from Srinagar to the Hindu and Sikh heartland of Jammu. He appealed to India for help, and accepted the condition that he should first accede to India, so that India could claim to be defending her own territory. Indian troops then occupied two-thirds of the country, whilst the West and the Northern Areas came under Pakistani control, the West becoming known as Azad (Free) Kashmir.
Nehru's family came from Kashmir and he was emotionally attached to it. The case went to the United Nations. Nehru was initially prepared to discuss partitioning the state, but the Pakistanis refused that: they claim that the whole state must be free of India. A UN Commission would side with India: the Maharajah's accession gave India the right to be in Kashmir. Since then India has always refused outside mediation between Indian and Pakistan on the grounds that Kashmir was a purely internal matter; and although occasionally there were meetings between the Prime Ministers of the two countries, they never achieved a solution. Pakistan claimed that a successful and popular revolution had driven the Maharajah from his capital before the accession, which was therefore illegitimate. For some time the Indians claimed to be in favour of a referendum, but the precondition for a fair referendum would have been demilitarization, and this the Indians steadily refused. In 1949 they effectively deposed the Maharajah and installed Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah (`the Lion of Kashmir'), a popular initially pro-Indian Muslim as Chief Minister; but in 1953 when the Sheikh's allegiance to India came under question, Nehru had him deposed, arrested, and replaced with one of the Sheikh's associates, who exercised a corrupt and unpopular dictatorship for the next ten years.
Mrs Gandhi made the Kashmir Accord with the Sheikh in 1971, by which the Sheikh gave up all ideas of seceding from India in return for Kashmir being given a considerable amount of autonomy; and Kashmir entered its happiest and most peaceful decade: the Sheikh was popular with his fellow Muslims but followed a secular policy which did not threaten the Hindu minority. Before he died in 1982, he nominated his son Farooq as his successor; but after his accession Mrs Gandhi wanted to assert more control over Kashmir by trying to force Farooq's party into coalition with her Congress Party. When Farooq resisted she began to undermine him, the more so when Farooq retaliated by forming an alliance with other regional leaders in India who wanted more autonomy. In June 1984 Mrs Gandhi deposed him. She was assassinated in October that year, and Rajiv Gandhi, anxious to mend relations with the regions, reinstated him in November 1986 when Farooq agreed to go into coalition with Congress, which he had refused to do earlier.
But by this time some Muslims had become militant; they now regarded Farooq as a puppet of India and turned to Pakistan, and an armed insurgency began (1987).
From now on it was downhill all the way - a continuing vicious circle of violence as brutalities by the Indian army were countered by brutalities by the militants and vice versa, with civilians being the victims of both. Although Pakistani governments have always denied giving direct aid to the militants, the borders have always been porous, and help was given to the militants by the Pakistani ISI (the army's Inter-Service Intelligence), which has always acted independently of its government). And in the 1996 elections in Azad Kashmir, parties which stood for an independent Kashmir were banned by the Pakistani authorities.
In 1999 local militants, supported by elements of the Pakistani army, seized a mountainous area around Kargil, just on the Indian side of the Line of Control. For nearly three months there was heavy fighting on land and in the air, and India and Pakistan, both now nuclear powers, were on the verge of a fourth war since independence before Nawaz Sharif, under international pressure, called on the militants to withdraw.
The book is very topical: as I write this review, the people of Kashmir are involved in a sustained non-violent mass protests on an unprecedented scale.