Kashmir is a region between the northern part of South Asia and the southern part of Central Asia. The term Kashmir historically described the valley just to the south of the westernmost end of the Himalayan mountain range. Politically, however, the term 'Kashmir' describes a much larger area which includes the regions of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh.
The main "Vale of Kashmir" is relatively low and very fertile, while magnificent mountains fed by streams flowing from adjoining valleys are found on the rest of the Kashmiri landscape. It is renowned as one of the most spectacularly beautiful places in the world.
Srinagar, the ancient capital, lies alongside Dal Lake and is famous for its canals and houseboats. Srinagar (alt. 1,600 m. or 5,200 ft.) acted as a favoured summer capital for many foreign conquerors who found the heat of the north Indian plains in summer oppressive. Just outside the city are the beautiful Shalimar gardens created by Jehangir, the Mughal emperor, in 1619.
The region is currently divided amongst three countries: Pakistan controls the northwest portion (Northern Areas and Azad Kashmir), India controls the central and southern portion Jammu and Kashmir, the Siachen Glacier is controlled by both India and Pakistan, and the People's Republic of China controls the northeastern portion (Aksai Chin and the Trans-Karakoram Tract). Though these regions are in practice administered by their respective claimants, India has never formally recognized the accession of the areas claimed by Pakistan and China. India claims that these areas, including the area ceded to China by Pakistan in 1963 (the Trans-Karakoram Tract) are a part of its territory, while Pakistan claims the region excluding Aksai Chin and Trans-Karakoram Tract. Both countries view the entire Kashmir region as disputed territory, and do not consider each other's claim to be valid. An option favoured by many Kashmiris is independence, but both India and Pakistan oppose this for various reasons. Because of this Kashmir is considered one of the world's most well-known territorial disputes, and most Western made maps use a dotted-line to indicate the territory's uncertain boundaries.
The rest of this article will, for the sake of clarity, refer to the parts of Kashmir administered by India, Pakistan and China as "Indian Kashmir", "Pakistani Kashmir", and "Chinese Kashmir" respectively. By this nomenclature, the word "Kashmir" in "Indian Kashmir" is used in a general sense to refer to what India calls "Jammu and Kashmir".
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