Pakistan's Unconstitutional Move for The Gilgit-Baltistan province
Tuesday - April 25, 2017 1:27 pm , Category : WTN SPECIAL
The Gilgit-Baltistan province that falls in Pak-occupied Kashmir has made much news over the recent past. It was heard that Pakistan was mulling giving the autonomous administrative unit the status of its fifth province, thus making it formally a part of Pakistan’s administration.
This was bound to raise the hackles in India because as per the UN resolution, the area is considered as a disputed region which both India and Pakistan claim as its own.
India considers it a part of Pak-occupied-Kashmir, which she contends has been illegally occupied by Pakistan, while Pakistan calls it legally under its domain, though Gilgit-Baltistan is an autonomous administrative unit where the intention is to give the power to the people, at least theoretically.
As a matter of fact, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan area, numbering over two million, are in favour of their formal integration with Pakistan. But Pakistan’s attempts at annexing Gilgit come with a rider. Pakistan feels if it tries to integrate Gilgit-Baltistan, its contention for Kashmir will get weak in the UN.
Separatist groups like Hurriyat too have been opposing Pakistan’s attempts at converting the status quo because they feel it will work in favour of India and strengthen its position at the same time weakening Pakistan’s stand even as countries like the UK have already condemned Pakistan’s change in strategic plans, which would only escalate tension in the region.
Obviously, India will not take it lying down. It cannot allow Pakistan to have its way in authorising itself over a disputed territory that India doesn’t consider Pakistan’s. The problem convolutes with the entry of China into the picture. The India-Pakistan bilateral concerns get more complex with Chain’s tacit arm-twisting tactics.
Though China has maintained that it is an India-Pakistan issue, a ‘leftover of history’, which the two countries should mutually deal with through dialogues and it did not have much to do with it, thereby favouring a status-quo, its involvement in the imbroglio is not hidden. It is trying to play safe and doesn’t want an open standoff with India on the issue, but its concerns are much overt and publicised.
The main reason for China’s interest in the region is the extensive trade route it is trying to expand through Pakistan to connect with the Middle East which would save costs in billions and help China assert its hegemony in the region.
The $ 54 billion China-Pakistan economic corridor as part of China’s ambitious One Belt One Road policy to connect the Chinese city of Xinjiang with Gwadar port in South West Pakistan passes through the Gilgit-Baltistan region.
If the region was fully under Pakistan’s control, China would have got better manoeuvring space and freedom to dominate the area through its infrastructural involvement. Over $33 billion worth of energy infrastructure is to be constructed by private consortia to help alleviate Pakistan's chronic energy shortages.
A network of pipelines to transport liquefied natural gas and oil will also be laid as part of the project, including a $2.5 billion pipeline between Gwadar and Nawabshah to eventually transport gas from Iran.
These are engagements of strategic importance aswell, because China will now have much better access to the world beyond through this economic and logistics invasions, even as it will give a fillip to Pakistan’s sagging economy. As long as the Gilgit area falls under the disputed realm, China’s ambitions get trimmed by default, which it won’t like for obvious reasons.
China would never want to tread disputed waters because any flare-up will scuttle its plans or at least delay and disturb it. China can and will try to play safe by opting for and exploring alternative routes for its expansion plans and leave Gilgit-Baltistan undisturbed. Former Indian National Security Advisor MK Narayanan in May 2016 warned that "CPEC must be viewed as a major threat.
Both countries (China and Pakistan) have a common intention to undermine India`s position in the region." During the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to China in 2015, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj had told Chinese Premier Xi Jinping that projects passing through Gilgit-Baltistan were ‘unacceptable’ as they required construction in the claimed territory (which India holds as her own, albeit occupied illegally by Pakistan).
In March 2016, foreign secretary Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said India's vision of Asian connectivity was that of a consultative process rather than that of ‘unilateral decisions,’ and that they should not ‘add to regional tensions.’ This is enough warning to China. Given these developments, it is heard that Pakistan has shelved the idea of taking Gilgit-Baltistan under its full control and has preferred to maintain the status quo.
China and Pakistan are old allies and in any case, the projects envisaged by China will go on, no matter what India thinks. India may be successful in saving its pride in Gilgit but eventually, the new strategic alignments shaping up in the Middle East do affect Indian diplomatic ambitions in the region.
Not that India needs any Chinese help in developing its own ports or cities as Pakistan begs for, but India’s relations, which it is strongly forging with Iran and the Arab world, may need some realignment and enhanced diplomatic engagement to outsmart China.
India must actively pursue the Iran-India gas pipeline project bypassing Pakistan and ink more tie-ups for transfer of India’s technological and scientific capital to the countries on the west of Pakistan in a bid to diminish China’s effect. India has already had an early start with its constructive involvement in Iran’s Chabahar port and she much capitalises on this lead.
Development and economic optimism are the cornerstones of a country’s military and diplomatic manoeuvring power and India, if she wants to hold sway over important world decisions, needs to have a bold roadmap backed by an able leadership which could make the right diplomatic cuts on the global platform.
India has an advantage over China any day for its democratic and secular underpinnings which guide its international relations. India’s non-violent approach is appreciated and emulated by the world. The world is big. India has a large playing field—she can extend her influence over the South East Asian region and the south Indian Ocean region, through its cultural, economic and scientific excellence.
The Gilgit-Baltistan issue may end up where it is, without further escalation from any side. But what India should keep watch on is China’s development juggernaut that is rolling over large swathes across continents. There are some lessons we learn best from our adversaries.
The best antidote India can use against China is not war, but counter-development. Rapid development is the only thing which will leave China worried and floundering for options. Time for India to focus intensely on that!- Window To News
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