The latest uprising in Indian-administered Kashmir gained momentum in the late 1980s, and prompted thousands to join the rebellion, pledging allegiance to more than two dozen militant groups operating in the region.
A history of schisms within the groups and periodic crackdowns by the Indian authorities combine to make the situation in Kashmir a confusing tapestry of military groups, Islamic fighters and terrorists.
But amid the often bewildering roll call of participants, experts believe certain patterns have emerged over more than a decade of fighting. While the uprising began as a mostly local movement against the Indian administration, new non-Kashmiri militant groups with links to terrorist training camps in Afghanistan have begun operating in the region.
Many of the new militant groups have shifted the ideological agenda of the uprising from a secularist and nationalist agenda to a hard-line Islamic one.
While India accuses Pakistan of harboring Islamic terrorists to fight in Indian-controlled Kashmir, Pakistan insists it only offers the groups moral support and accuses India of denying Kashmiris the right to national self-determination. Kashmir is the only Muslim-majority state in India.
Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Pakistani President
Head of Pakistan's powerful army and military ruler of the Islamic state. Known to be a moderate Muslim with little patience for Islamic hard-liners, Musharraf nevertheless considers Kashmir a litmus test. While India and the international community has been calling for a Pakistani crackdown on Islamic militant groups operating in the disputed region, Kashmir is a sensitive domestic issue, and Pakistani rulers in the past have realized the importance of being seen as being hawkish on Kashmir.
Atal Behari Vajpayee, Indian Prime Minister
Perceived as the moderate face of the Bharatiya Janata Party, a Hindu right-wing party known for its hard-line stance on Kashmir and India's Muslim minority. But many consider Vajpayee an elder statesman and question how much control the former journalist and poet holds over the more aggressive elements in his party.
Hafiz Mohammad Saeed
Co-founder and senior leader of Lashkar-e-Toiba, one of two militant groups accused in the Dec. 13, 2001 attack on the Indian parliament. A Pakistani from the Punjab province, Saeed's Punjabi ethnicity has posed a problem for some militant groups operating in the region. Following the Indian government's repeated assertions that "outsiders" and "foreigners" had hijacked the Kashmir issue from local groups more amenable to negotiate with authorities, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) — one of the oldest groups operating in the region — dubbed Lashkar-e-Toiba a non-Kashmiri group.
After the Pakistani government froze Lashkar-e-Toiba's financial assets following the attack on the Indian parliament, Saeed announced his resignation from Lashkar in favor of Maulana Abdul Wahid Kashmiri, a local Kashmiri. Saeed also announced his intention to "return to politics" but his association with Lashkar during the most violent period of its history is likely make his switch to politics difficult. In interviews with the Pakistani media, Saeed has said he believed Islam rejects the concept of elections and has supported the implementation of sharia or Islamic law in Kashmir.
Maulana Masood Azhar