In the late 14th cent., after years of Buddhist and Hindu rule, Kashmir was conquered by Muslims who converted most of the population. It became part of the Mughal empire in 1586, but by 1751 the local ruler was independent. After a century of disorder the British pacified Kashmir in 1846 and installed a Hindu prince as ruler of the predominantly Muslim region.
When India was partitioned in 1947, Muslim forces from Pakistan invaded Kashmir. The Hindu ruler fled to Delhi and there agreed to place Kashmir under the dominion of India; the region was given semiautonomy. Indian troops were flown to Srinagar to engage the Pakistani forces. The fighting was ended by a UN cease-fire in 1949, but the region was divided between India and Pakistan along the cease-fire line. A constituent assembly in Indian Kashmir voted in 1953 for incorporation into India, but this was delayed by continued Pakistani-Indian disagreement and UN disapproval of the disposition of any portion of the region without a plebiscite. In 1955, India and Pakistan agreed to keep their respective forces in Kashmir 6 mi (10 km) apart.
A new vote by the assembly in Indian Kashmir in 1956 led to the integration of Kashmir as an Indian state; Azad Kashmir remained, however, under the control of Pakistan. India refused to consider subsequent Pakistani protests and UN resolutions calling for a plebiscite. The situation was complicated in 1959, when Chinese troops occupied the Aksai Chin section of the district of Ladakh. Indian-Pakistani relations became more inflamed in 1963 when a Sino-Pakistani agreement defined the Chinese border with Pakistani Kashmir and ceded Indian-claimed territory to China.
Serious fighting between India and Pakistan broke out again in Aug., 1965. A UN cease-fire took effect in September. In Jan., 1966, President Ayub Khan of Pakistan and Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri of India met at Tashkent at the invitation of the Soviet government and agreed to the mutual withdrawal of troops to the positions held before the latest outbreak. In the Dec., 1971, war between India and Pakistan, India made some gains in fighting in Kashmir. In Dec., 1972, a new cease-fire line along the positions held at the end of the 1971 war was agreed to by India and Pakistan.
In the late 1980s, Muslim resistance to Indian rule escalated, with some militants supporting independence and others union with Pakistan. A rigged election (1987) sparked violence, and the legislature was subsequently suspended. In 1990 direct presidential rule was imposed. Plans to hold elections in 1995 were abandoned following the burning of an important Muslim shrine and its surrounding town and riots in Srinagar. Fighting again erupted in May, 1999, when India launched air strikes and then ground action against infiltrators from Pakistan. After heavy losses on both sides, a cease-fire was reached in mid-July.
Kashmiri legislation restoring the state's pre-1953 autonomy and negotiations betweeen India and one of the Muslim militant groups proved short-lived in 2000. Kashmir guerrilla attacks in 2002 threatened to spark a broader conflict between India and Pakistan. Despite such attacks, credible elections were held in October, leading to a new government that favored negotiating with the separatists. In 2005 bus service between Indian and Pakistani Kashmir was established for the first time since partition; the move, which led to attacks by militants opposed to it, was intended to help normalize relations.
Kashmir, especially the Pakistani section, was hard-hit by an earthquake in Oct., 2005. Of the tens of thousands of deaths in Kashmir, more than 95% of them occurred in Pakistan. Border-crossing restrictions were eased following the quake to facilitate relief efforts. Improved relations between Pakistan and India have lessened the violence in Kashmir, but since 2008 there has been an upsurge in protests and demonstrations by proindependence Muslims and increased Hindu-Muslim tensions in the region. In 2012 a nonbinding Indian mediation panel report was critical of the military's harsh rule but rejected autonomy for Kashmir. An estimated 42,000 to 68,000 have been killed in Kashmir since 1989.