Pakistan’s Unholy designs in Gilgit-Baltistan

The entire princely state of Jammu and Kashmir became an integral part of India by signing of the Instrument of Accession by Maharaja Hari Singh in October 1947.  But right at beginning Pakistan attacked Jammu and Kashmir and occupied a major portion of the territory of J&K. The State of Jammu and Kashmir comprised of Jammu, Kashmir, Ladakh, Pakistan Occupied J&K and Gilgit-Baltistan.

It was in1935, the Gilgit agency came under the lease of Britishers for 60 years from the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir because of its strategic location on the northern borders of British India. The political department of British India administered it through a British officer. The region’s security was the responsibility of a military force called the Gilgit Scouts, which was officered by the British.

With Independence of India in 1947, the Britishers terminated the lease, and returned the region to the Maharaja on August 1, 1947. The Maharaja appointed Brigadier Ghansara Singh of the J&K state forces as Governor of the region. Two officers of the Gilgit Scouts, Major W A Brown and Captain A S Mathieson, along with Subedar Major Babar Khan, a relative of the Mir of Hunza, were loaned to the Maharaja at Gilgit. But when Maharaja Hari Singh signed Instrument of accession with India, Major Brown imprisoned Brigadier Ghansara Singh on 31st October 1947 and declared the accession of Gilgit to Pakistan.

On November 2, Major Brown officially raised the Pakistani flag at his headquarters. Two weeks later, a nominee of the Pakistan government, Sardar Mohammed Alam, was appointed the Political Agent, and took possession of the territory. Pakistani army soldiers and tribals used it as a base to launch attacks on the other towns and cities of the region like Skardu, Dras, Kargil and Leh.

The matter was taken to UN despite India’s superior position to take back that area from Pakistan. The UNSC resolution on Jammu and Kashmir adopted in 1948 envisaged three conditional steps i.e. withdrawal of all Pakistani regular and irregular troops from the region to the satisfaction of the UN; thereafter, a reduction in the number of Indian troops to the minimum necessary for the maintenance of law and order; and then, a plebiscite under UN supervision. The resolution became irrelevant after Pakistan refused to take the first step – which was mandatory for its implementation. The issue of Gilgit-Baltistan being part of State of Jammu and Kashmir being acceded to India cannot be seen as separate. Since then Pakistan is illegally occupying this region and exploiting the people of this region. Pakistan always treated region separate from POJK.

The Gilgit Baltistan area of Jammu and Kashmir occupied by Pakistan covers 85,793 sq km. It was further divided in 1970 into two separate administrative divisions: Mirpur-Muzaffarabad and the Federally Administered Gilgit-Baltistan.

Gilgit Baltistan reflects the gross contradiction in Pakistan’s Kashmir policy. Unlike POJK, Gilgit Baltistan was denied a political status for decades because of its disputed status. On the other hand, Pakistan has attempted to change the situations by transferring a significant chunk of territory to China and by revoking the State Subject rule to alter the region’s demography. Gilgit Baltistan has not figured so much in most political debates on Kashmir.

In 2009, Pakistan finally sought to give some legal cover to this relationship by passing a Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order in the Cabinet and getting presidential assent for it. The order allegedly granted self-rule to the people by creating a legislative assembly and a council, yet did not provide for any constitutional means of linking it to Pakistan. Pakistan believed that by this way its position will be strengthened vis-a-vis Jammu & Kashmir. But situation became adverse for Pakistan than ever and many groups fighting against human right violations by Pakistan in the region became most assertive and vocal.

As far as China is concerned it became a player in this dispute by Pakistan-China agreement in 1963 which saw the transfer of the Shaksgam Valley to China. Beginning in the mid-1960s, China constructed the Karakoram Highway linking Kashghar in Xinjiang with Gilgit and Abbottabad through the Khunjerab Pass. China has upgraded this highway and made it an initiative of China’s Silk Road which will link Xinjiang to Gwadar port in Balochistan through the highway, a possible railroad and oil and gas pipeline. China has invested in a number of projects in the Gilgit-Baltistan region and the Chinese connection is an important element of the region’s economy. The new in this direction is CPEC which is passing such territory which is part of State of J&K. Since the legal title of the region through which the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will run through vests with India. This is the reason the Indian side has always such objected activities of China in this region again and again. On 22nd February 1994 Indian parliamentary resolution reiterated the legal position that the entire territory of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and asked Pakistan to vacate the area under its illegal occupation.

Pakistan is planning to declare the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region also known as Northern Areas as its fifth province. According to a Minister In charge in Pakistan Government that a committee recommended that Gilgit-Baltistan should be made a province of Pakistan. He also said that a constitutional amendment would be made to change the status of the region, through which the $46 billion (CPEC) passes. Gilgit-Baltistan shares a geographical boundary with Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir and India has legal claims over this region as part of the undivided Jammu and Kashmir, while Pakistan sees it as a separate from PoJK. Pakistan wants to elevate the constitutional status of the region in a bid to provide legal cover to the CPEC. It is said that China’s blackmailing tactics about the unsettled status of Gilgit-Baltistan prompted Pakistan to change its status.

It is the high time for India to raise this issue at levels and in all ways in order to fulfil the unfinished agenda of full accession of whole Princely State of J&K. India need to learn from mistakes in past whether at diplomatic level or at war front. India should raise the issues of Human rights violation by Pakistan in this region and China’s unconditional support to Pakistan. Many groups from Gilgit-Baltistan have exposed Pakistan in recent UNHRC meetings.  Regaining this territory would also provide India a direct land link to Afghanistan and then to the Central Asian Republics, both of which are increasingly falling into the Chinese sphere of economic and political influence as well as checking Chinese policy of encircling India in South-Asian region.

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