The Gilgit- Baltistan feint

There are serious impediments to declaring the region Pakistan’s fifth province. The issue has been raised to placate China and distract India

Written by Tilak Devasher | Updated: April 19, 2017 1:07 am
The proposition of making GB a fifth province is not new. It has been examined several times in the past.

Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) has been in the news recently due to the March 14 revelation of a Pakistani minister that the government was considering making it the fifth province of Pakistan. This was pursuant to the recommendations of a committee headed by the adviser on foreign affairs, Sartaj Aziz.

GB is one of the two parts of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK), the other being the so-called “Azad Jammu and Kashmir” (“AJK”), both of which formed part of the territory of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). GB has an area of 72,000 sq km and comprises about 85 per cent of the total area of PoK. Despite its strategic location — providing land access to China, containing vast reservoirs of fresh water and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passing through it, GB does not form part of the territory of Pakistan.

The territory was handed over on a platter to the newly created state of Pakistan in November 1947 by the action of a British officer of the Gilgit Scouts. Despite being in the service of the Maharaja of Kashmir, he revolted and joined Pakistan. Instead of being court-martialled, he was rewarded by the British with an MBE in 1948, quite possibly because he was working on their instructions rather than those of the Maharaja. Posthumously, the Pakistan government also decorated him with the Sitara-e-Pakistan.

The proposition of making GB a fifth province is not new. It has been examined several times in the past. Each time, the conclusion has been that GB is part of J&K and any such move would seriously damage Pakistan’s Kashmir case. Additionally, Pakistan was also hedging its bets in case it needed the Muslim-majority population of the area to vote for it in a plebiscite. The impediments Pakistan faces in making GB its fifth province are many. Two UN resolutions of August 13, 1948 and January 5, 1949 clearly established a link between GB and the Kashmir issue. Pakistan was faced with two issues in the UN resolutions: First, the August 13 resolution mentioned that “pending a final solution, territory evacuated by the Pakistan troops will be administered by the ‘local authorities’.”

Second, GB was Shia-dominated and Pakistan was apprehensive of setting up a Shia state in its north. The Shia Political Conference had opposed Jinnah’s two-nation theory and saw few opportunities for themselves in an overwhelmingly Sunni Pakistan. Not surprisingly, Pakistan has been deliberately altering the ethnic and religious balance in the region.

To circumvent these issues, Pakistan arranged to have the Karachi Agreement of April 28, 1949, signed by Mushtaq Gurmani, Pakistan’s “minister without portfolio”, Sardar Ibrahim Khan, the president of “Azad Kashmir” and Chaudhry Ghulam Abbas, head of the Muslim Conference. There was no representative from GB. With this agreement, the administration of GB was handed over to Pakistan by those who had no locus standi on the issue. The agreement was kept secret and its existence revealed for the first time in a judgment of the “AJK” High Court in 1993.

Making GB its fifth province would thus violate the Karachi Agreement — perhaps the only instrument that provides doubtful legal authority to Pakistan’s administration of GB — as well as the UN resolutions that would damage its position on the Kashmir issue.

Any such move would also be violative of the 1963 Pak-China Boundary Agreement that calls for the sovereign authority to reopen negotiations with China “after the settlement of the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India” and of the 1972 Simla Agreement that mentions that “neither side shall unilaterally alter the situation”.

Several court verdicts have averred that GB is a part of J&K. The most notable is the 1993 “AJK” High Court verdict. The order was set aside in 1994 by the “AJK” Supreme Court that held that GB was a part of J&K state as it existed until 1948.

Pakistan would also have to overcome the adverse reaction of Kashmiris on both sides of the LoC. While it can manage the reaction of people in “AJK”, its constituency in J&K would be seriously damaged. Hurriyat leaders have already made this known.

Given these serious impediments, why has Pakistan chosen to raise the issue?

The elephant in the room is, of course, China. With a $50 billion investment in the CPEC, China would hardly want the territory through which the route passes to have a dubious status. India has made its concerns over the CPEC clear to China at the highest levels since the area belongs to India.

Quite possibly, Pakistan has raised the controversy for one of two reasons. First, to tell the Chinese how difficult it is to make GB its fifth province and how this would compromise its long-standing position on the Kashmir issue. China is unlikely to buy into this argument, given that $50 billion is at stake.

The other possibility is that Pakistan wants to give the impression of freezing its territorial ambitions in J&K in order to concentrate on the CPEC and remove any misgivings that the Chinese may have on the status of GB. This, however, would be a feint to lull India into complacence. In effect, Pakistan would end up absorbing GB while continuing to finance and materially support the violence and unrest in Kashmir.

India’s statement opposing the move was timely. India has to ensure that it does not fall into a Pak-China trap to take GB off the table by making it the fifth province in the hope that Pakistan will curb its ambitions. It is unlikely that Pakistan will ever relent on the Kashmir issue.

 

Devasher is the author of ‘Pakistan: Courting the Abyss’ and former Special Secretary, Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India

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  1. A
    aniqa sheikh
    Apr 21, 2017 at 1:01 pm
    The author while getting carried away by his putrid notion of nationalism has tried to argue that stan is trying to consolidate a territory which was illegally occupied by it during the unfolding of post-par ion events of 1947. He further strives to draw an equivalence between the statuses of Kashmir & Gilgit Baltistan. The author is either ignorant of the facts pertaining to the independence and later merger with stan or he has tried to brush them under the carpet as they unveil the real character of the nation-state to which he unfortunately belongs. GB never was a part of the Kashmir region no matter through which prism you see it i.e. historical, cultural or any other. I was under occupation of from the Maharaja for a brief time and then in 1947 it seceded away from his state by means of an absolutely domestic & po rly driven rebellion. stan pla no role in this matter of secession and is now only formalizing what was & is the wish of the m es in GB.
    Reply
    1. A
      aniqa sheikh
      Apr 21, 2017 at 11:25 am
      One fails to comprehend as to how India as a nation-state, manages to express audacity of the highest order by rendering absurd commentary upon the matters relating Gilgit-Baltistan (GB). To begin with what locus standi does India have in the subject matter under the realms of the International Law. If we take a stringent view of the matter and place our observation on well settled Doctrine of Recognition, India unlike stan shares "NO BORDER" with GB at all. The only mean of access that it hold vis-a-via GB, comes through the occupied land of Indian Held Kashmir. The status of this region i.e. IOK itself is disputed in the eyes of the UN so as how India can base its ertions upon it, is a question which is puzzling to say the least. However we must remember that India as a nation is neither fond of the notion of rationale nor does it apply it when it comes to matters of state craft. It believes in Theatrics & is doing the same in the instant matter.
      Reply
      1. F
        future
        Apr 20, 2017 at 2:58 am
        Maybe time has come for decimating stan. Bangladesh came out long time back. Now its time for Independence of Balochistan. After that Kashmir issue will get resolved automatically..
        Reply
        1. A
          aniqa sheikh
          Apr 21, 2017 at 11:36 am
          It seems you're pretty high on some weird stuff right now, maybe its one of those strange jellies Baba Ramdev has been selling in the name of Chamanprash!!!! You do actually think your state has the capacity to maneuver through a Nuclear Fence and subjugate a sovereign nation without having to pay a terrible price. The day (which it seems is not far enough considering the sort of numskull pundits who are manging to occupie top governmental positions in India) you decide to go ahead with some fool hardy plan and actually dare to engage stan in a direct military confrontation, you would realize that a lot of water has p ed from the bridges since 1971. South Asia today is a transformed region which has a well maintained balance of power. Any attempts to altar the prevalent status quo will invoke a stark reaction from stan and the witless belligerence of the adventurist will be responded in a manner that it understands and remembers.
          Reply
        2. M
          Mujtaba Ehtasham
          Apr 20, 2017 at 1:58 am
          If India believes Gilgit is part of India then Hyderabad(Deccan)is legally a part of stan since its Nawab wanted to join stan and but Sarwat Patel sent in Indian forces and Annexed it by force.
          Reply
          1. M
            Mujtaba Ehtasham
            Apr 20, 2017 at 1:55 am
            This is a funny map.Gilgit is ruled by a stani administration and this weird map shows it as part of India dia is fooling no one but itself.
            Reply
            1. Z
              zee
              Apr 19, 2017 at 11:40 pm
              So called civilized nation on fortunate planet you can not take it from us pak in four wars which ones won by you as you clame pigeon hearted lame ducks
              Reply
              1. Z
                zee
                Apr 19, 2017 at 11:37 pm
                Take a step if you people have courage are otherwise spew venom against pak as a cripple witch
                Reply
                1. Z
                  zee
                  Apr 19, 2017 at 11:33 pm
                  If you as you pretend that yor are mini superpower with rights of discion making than take it from stan by your well reputed army why are you feeding 1.4 million lame ducks which even can not take back its territory from a tiny country as compare to your country
                  Reply
                  1. S
                    Sohail
                    Apr 19, 2017 at 10:55 pm
                    Who cares about what India thinks about this issue ? It is integral part of stan only issue to be resolved is about return of Indian occupied Kashmir to stan.
                    Reply
                    1. G
                      G k
                      Apr 19, 2017 at 8:38 pm
                      A very revealing article. Well thought and well expressed. stan which is actually a millitary industrial deep state of mullah maullwi and trigger happy terrorist army can never get Kashmir just for the reason that it is a Muslim majority area. If that is the reason for ruling Punjabi elite of stan then they have to consider balance Muslim po tion of india. Also major Indian river has origin in Kashmir and the determination of 125 crore Indians is more important than 60 lakh Kashmiris. So it is good for stan to forget about this.
                      Reply
                      1. A
                        aniqa sheikh
                        Apr 21, 2017 at 11:56 am
                        Your knowledge regarding geo-strategic affairs & international relations seems to be steaming out the propa a literature distributed at the RSS Shikhas. To begin with I'm quite the very sure that the article that you are so vigorously praising lies well beyond your ability/capacity to comprehend things. Your knowledge regarding the 2 Nation Theory and the merger of Muslim Majority States is almost nowt. It was well settled in 1947 that not matter what amount of minorities reside in a particular country, stan shall comprise of the states which are geographical aligned and have a Muslim majority. Both Kashmir & GB fall under this patent principle. As regards your absurd water-logic, the water which flows into India from Kashmir then continues to flow in Bangladesh. By that definition Kashmir should have been awarded to Bangladesh instead. By The Way For Your Info Brahmaputra begins its stream from Angsi in China, when do you plan to claim your stakes inside Chinese territory?
                        Reply
                      2. H
                        Harsh
                        Apr 19, 2017 at 8:05 pm
                        The issue is raised only to leverage it for elections, for now stan, and later India, or should I say, simply to justify the election results later. Sorry to dash both the countries hopes together, the vote doesn't matter even in the most powerful country today.
                        Reply
                        1. S
                          Sreesheel Sreekumar
                          Apr 19, 2017 at 7:48 pm
                          Why on earth do Shias of Gilgit Baltistan want to join stan ? Do they want to die at the hands of Sunnis ? They should instead join the Indian Union !
                          Reply
                          1. A
                            aniqa sheikh
                            Apr 21, 2017 at 12:00 pm
                            Yes and be deprived of AZAN, QUBANI, LIFE, DIGNITY & PARITY AS A CITIZEN. It is just so mesmerizing to think of a Babu Bajrangi acting under the command of a Modi, taking infants out their mothers womb & chanting Jai Mata Di. Who Can Resist That Temptation???? When's The Next Train To To India Leaving????
                            Reply
                          2. H
                            Harsh
                            Apr 19, 2017 at 6:09 pm
                            It is not just an impediment, it is actually a master stroke that paralyzed the separatist and takes them closer to merger. We have to play harder and larger stroke to counter that prior to end it up in UN. This can be achieved only if we come out of the mental legacy of King of Kashmir who is actually responsible, for all this mess.
                            Reply
                            1. A
                              aravind
                              Apr 19, 2017 at 1:43 pm
                              Excellent article exposing the Chinese game for their selfish interests. The Colonials always created hot spot for them continue to reap but let go destroying when not able to benefit; this is what is just happening. The rest is history in progress. Vested interests continue to scavenge. For stani people, still unaware that they are now a toy for China.
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                              1. A
                                aniqa sheikh
                                Apr 21, 2017 at 12:07 pm
                                Is Any One Getting The Irony Around Here!!!! A Country, Which Virtual Compromised Its Nuclear Security Paradigm, Its Military Development Plans & Its Independent Foreign Policy, Just To Woo The Americans In, Is Now Lecturing stan About The Notion Of Sovereignty & Threats Of Colonization. Do remember to render that advice to your buffoon PM the next time he is serving tea to a US President dressed a name printed clumsy looking attire.
                                Reply
                              2. R
                                Rici
                                Apr 19, 2017 at 11:16 am
                                lot of por ki tanis use this forum of Indian express. not very surprising.
                                Reply
                                1. S
                                  Shahid khan
                                  Apr 19, 2017 at 11:46 am
                                  because IE tells the truth to some extent than others Indian newspapers.
                                  Reply
                                2. S
                                  Showkat Ahmad
                                  Apr 19, 2017 at 10:56 am
                                  Both India and stan are using Kashmir card for there vested interests. Giggit Baltistan, Azad J&K, Kashmir Valley, Ladakh and Jammu region belongs to the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir State. Neither India nor stan can claim them as there is yet the conflict waiting for final solution for which Kashmiris have suffered lot. Let both India and stan allow there national interest to allow Kashmiris to decide their future by way of either tripar e talks or referendum.
                                  Reply
                                  1. A
                                    aniqa sheikh
                                    Apr 21, 2017 at 12:16 pm
                                    When was the last time you actually landed your hands on a REAL BOOK!!! Or you just prefer commenting on issues on the basis on hearsay!!!! The erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir ceased to exist under the "Lapse of Paramountcy" doctrine, the day Mharaja fled his capital to escape from a po r uprising. Even in the contemporary world your idea of a "Third Option" is neither viable nor sustainable in the longer run. An independent region falling within the direct ambit of 3 Nuclear powers, all of whom have been accused of expansionist, will not be able to exist in tranquility. It is be transformed into a worldly and will also put the strategic stability of South Asia at peril. Do read the work of Dr. Vaidik on this subject. Sustainable peace is only conceivable if Kashmir proceeds to merge with stan its natural patron.
                                    Reply
                                  2. S
                                    Shahid khan
                                    Apr 19, 2017 at 10:55 am
                                    Forget and shut your false propa a against GB and think about Indian Occupied Kashmir which is burning due to your atrocities for decades. Just wait once a true Pathan Government (Sarkar) sets in Islamabad.
                                    Reply
                                    1. Y
                                      YPS Mohan
                                      Apr 19, 2017 at 9:30 am
                                      Very good article. Apart from highlighting some of the forgotten aspects of GB, the article throws a good analysis of the pros and cons that stan faces in its move to make GB as its fifth province.
                                      Reply
                                      1. R
                                        ramesh
                                        Apr 19, 2017 at 7:06 am
                                        AZADI gone for toss what will happen to trolls it is clear that azadi league etc support from stan is a eyewash they want to grab kashmir by hook or crook will these stone throwers blacken face of each others in the wake of move
                                        Reply
                                        1. A
                                          aniqa sheikh
                                          Apr 21, 2017 at 12:21 pm
                                          You have quite some nerve when you equate a tranquil region with a - called the Indian occupied Kashmir. No m graves, internment torture centers, rape camps, pellet guns or AFSPA is present in GB. It is a peaceful region which is being MERGED as opposed to ANNEXED to stan. The ones who should blacken their faces are the soldiers of the occupation forces in IoK and the ones who support and condone their atrocities against Humanity.
                                          Reply
                                        2. S
                                          S.K. Express
                                          Apr 19, 2017 at 5:18 am
                                          Are the editors of this ant-Indian Express Ok with what you are saying? These traitors among the editors have already written an editorial praising stan's acquisition of GB.
                                          Reply
                                          1. A
                                            aniqa sheikh
                                            Apr 21, 2017 at 12:49 pm
                                            Indian Express Is Not Jii Huzoor News, It Knows How To Maintain Its Standards & Grant Editorial Independence To Its Staff. Dissent Is The Essence Of Any Democracy & Indian Express Knows How To Uphold This Principle. You Unfortunately Are Only Accustomed To The Culture Of The RSS Where Even An Academic Dissent Results In The Blacking Of Face & Torture. One Feels Lucky To Be Alive After That Treatment Is Metered Out To Him.
                                            Reply
                                          2. v
                                            venky123
                                            Apr 19, 2017 at 1:55 am
                                            Ever observed such articles on national importance comes from non-lefties and non-mullahs? And then thsese Western-aping Indian libbtards wants us to believe in them.
                                            Reply
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