Pakistan-occupied J&K, China and India

In the middle of November, 2020 Pakistan held elections in the Jammu & Kashmir held part of Gilgit-Pakistan. This Area was occupied by Pakistan in 1947 when UNSC ordered cease fire when Pakistan attacked the J&K state after the  state’s accession to India. This area has been under perpetual conundrum for the last more than seventy years. In fact, this entire area has been part of entire Muzaffarabad district of the erstwhile state. However, after its occupation, Pakistan truncated the Gilgit-Baltistan and took over its direct control. During Benazir Bhutto’s time, Gilgit-Baltistan was accorded the status of a district with an assembly comprising 4 Seats. In the latest elections the District was granted specific concessions like allowing the persons inside the polling stations  to caste the ballot even after the polling time. India had rejected this move and declared that ‘any action in Gilgit-Baltistan to alter the status of militarily-occupied Gilgit-Baltistan has no legal basis whatsoever and is totally void ab-initio’.

There have been loud voices raised by opposition parties who have been winning elections respectively but have now lost making way for PTI of Mr. Imran Khan. In a detailed analysis on alleged rigging in Gilgit-Baltistan, Attiya Munnawar (Daily Times, Nov;19 2020 elections) writes that in case an issue has been raised on rigging of elections, a transparent investigation is a sine qua non to allay the apprehensions  and misgivings of the common people. According to her the initiative of PTI in reaching out and making alliance with dynamic and local people paid the dividends. According to her, for the completion of the Pak- China Economic Corridor Project, peace here is crucial.

There is a long history to comprehend the Pakistan China friend ship regarding Karakoram highway which was initiated by China by scrapping Nehru’s ideal Panch Sheel Agreement to the latter’s psychological and emotional breakdown as recorded by historians. It ostensibly inaugurated a new phase of China Pakistan long term friendship. There is a crucial reality that 1300 Kilometer long Karakoram is the only route that connects Pakistan with China and Central Asia directly.

Gilgit-Baltistan is a strategic area in the region and historically it attracted keen interest and attention of Russia and British. This area covers 72,971 Sq. KM or 28,177 Sq. Miles. It has a population of 1.8 Million people. It was ruled by traditional, feudal and tribal lords who owed allegiance to none except to themselves and their kin. Due to Special Status of J&K, the British did not command a direct control over the state or its affairs. After pressure and persuasion , the British were able to take the possession of Gilgit on lease from the last ruler of J&K, Maharaja Hari Singh. The constructing of an all weather moterable road and an Aerodrome in Gilgit was the immediate priority of Hari Singh. The Gilgit project of building the infrastructure and modern facilities in Gilgit involved highest measures of tyranny and oppression of enslaved people of J&K. The tales of these measures are abhorring blemish on Hari Singh’s personality.

In the backdrop of tribal attack on J&K, the revolt of Gilgit Scouts headed by a British officer on the eve of J&K’s Accession to the Union of India is amazing. It unfolds  later developments in Gilgit-Baltistan and China’s role as well as China’s planning and future prospects are visibly clear. India’s defenseless position in this scenario also becomes clear. The recent Chinese offensive in Ladakh, Aruna Pradesh aside, deserves a strategic analysis and strategy. The border lines are not merely drawn on papers. They need military support. Across Indian Union Territory of Ladakh, the area across Kargil under the occupation of  Pakistan, is being reconstructed and its roads are being widened by Chinese labor. These areas may join Karakaram High way ultimately. These activities need to be recognized.

In second week of October,2020; Pakistan Prime Minister, Imran Khan sent a draft to legislators to accord Adhoc status of a province to Gilgit- Baltistan. There has been a strong reaction from Occupied J&K (Called Azad Kashmir) alleging discrimination. Although the draft has mentioned that this Provincial status would be subject to ‘plebiscite under the auspices under UNSC’ whenever that takes place. However, until then China – Pakistan should have accomplished major part of their agenda. A response from India is awaited.

The writer can be reached on fitrat@gmail.com