External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said this week that “we expect one day we will have physical jurisdiction” over Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Last month, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had said that any talks with Pakistan, if they are held, would be over PoK and not J&K, and Home Minister Amit Shah had told Lok Sabha that “whenever I mention the State of Jammu and Kashmir, it means both Pak-Occupied Kashmir and Aksai Chin are part of it”.
A resolution unanimously adopted by Parliament on February 22, 1994 affirmed that “the State of Jammu & Kashmir has been, is and shall be an integral part of India”, and demanded that “Pakistan must vacate the areas of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, which they have occupied through aggression”.
What lies across the LoC?
Pakistan Occupied Kashmir is an area of 13,297 sq km, which was under the control of the Pakistani forces when the ceasefire line came into effect on January 1, 1949. That was after a 14-month period of hostilities between India and Pakistan, which began with an invasion of Kashmir by Pashtun tribesmen, and later its Army, to seize Kashmir.
PoK has a population of over 40 lakh, according to a census carried out in 2017. It is divided into 10 districts: Neelum, Muzaffarabad, Hattian Bala, Bagh, and Haveli bordering areas in Kashmir, and Rawlakot, Kotli, Mirpur, and Bhimber bordering areas in Jammu. The capital of PoK is Muzaffarabad, a town located in the valley of the Jhelum river and its tributary Neelum (which Indians call Kishanganga) to the west and slightly north of Srinagar.
In 1963, through an agreement, Pakistan ceded to China over 5,000 sq km of J&K land under its control, in the Shaksgam area, in northern Kashmir, beyond the Karakoram.
And what is Gilgit Baltistan?
This is a picturesque, hilly region to the north of PoK and east of the Pakistani province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The British sold it, along with the rest of Jammu and Kashmir, to the Dogra ruler of Jammu, Gulab Singh, after defeating the Sikh army in 1846, but retained controlled over the area through a lease extracted from the Maharaja.
This lease was last renewed in 1935. In 1947, a British army officer of the rank of Colonel imprisoned Maharaja Hari Singh’s governor in the region, and handed over the area for accession to Pakistan.
Gilgit Baltistan (GB) is spread over 72,871 sq km, and is five-and-a-half times the size of PoK. But it is sparsely populated, with just under 20 lakh people. GB is divided into three administrative divisions and 10 districts. Gilgit, Hunza, Ghizer and Nagar are in the Gilgit administrative division; Ghanche, Shigar, Kharmang and Skardu are in the Baltistan division; and Diamer and Astore are in the Diamer division.
What is the administrative status in GB?
Though both PoK and GB are ruled directly from Islamabad, neither is officially listed as the territory of Pakistan, which has just four provinces: Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (which now includes the Federally Administered Tribal areas or FATA), Balochistan, and Sindh.
PoK and GB are both “autonomous territories”. Pakistan has kept this fiction going, as incorporating these areas into its map would damage its international position in the United Nations and elsewhere that the entire Jammu and Kashmir is “disputed”. For India, on the other hand, as per the resolution passed by Parliament in 1994, PoK and GB are both part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir, which is an integral part of India by virtue of its accession to India in 1947.