IT all started with PM Modi’s open sustenance for people of Gilgit Baltistan! Yes Modi spoke about people of Pakistan and appeared so worried with a thought that he can be a liberator. Interestingly a wise man should have asked him why you so bothered about people living in Pakistan but not of those in India. His such concerns were made public in an Indian Independence Day speech of 2016, where he said “The people of Balochistan, the people of Gilgit, the people of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir have thanked me in such a manner, from places that I have never been and never had a chance to meet, they have sent wishes to the people of India and thanked us. I am grateful to them.”
According to India, political culture is absent in GB and grievances can be seen from local newspapers. Same strategy India tries to adopt for Balochistan where it says that people of Balochistan want to be independent and part of India. Utterly pursuing wrong stance and later propagating in best possible way has always remained aura of India to destabilise Pakistan in any case. Neither people of Balochistan nor Gilgit-Baltistan carry such sentiments of getting independent from Pakistan rather India backs separatists groups and pumps them through different tactics time and again to disturb Pakistan’s stability.
Last year when Modi stated such remarks about GB, it was largely criticised in all circles of Pakistan. Gilgit Baltistan’s legislative assembly condemned statements made by the Indian prime minister and unanimously passed a resolution against Modi’s statements. The resolution termed Narendra Modi’s statements as lunacy and an attempt to divert attention from the atrocities taking place in Kashmir. The resolution clearly narrated, “Every child in Gilgit Baltistan is ready to fight for the defence and security of Pakistan”. While the Chief Minister of GB stated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement on Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) was a manifestation of growing Indian frustration over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).
With the Chinese strategic initiative that has isolated India in the region, therefore India feels inaccessible as part of greater One Belt One Road (OBOR) to link 3 billion people of South Asia, Central Asia and China. CPEC has provided second opportunity to change the destination of GB people after construction of Karakoram Highway in 1970s. The GB people support CPEC, although there are different location of projects which will remain under discussion. Indian prime minister’s malicious talk on GB was designed to damage the Pakistan’s economic well-being and to weaken its defence mechanism. With the initiation of CPEC, operations would reduce Chinese reliance on sea lines passing through Straits of Malacca. About 80 per cent Chinese oil imports coming through Malacca straits in South China Sea and the United States has the capacity to block the strait in times of conflicts. Therefore, China considers it strategically important to fast track work on CPEC.
Now with the expansion of work on CPEC and knowing that political segments of Pakistan are unanimous on CPEC, India is trying to grab people of Gilgit Baltistan through geographical status and says that Pakistan has forcibly occupied Indian territory and people are unaware of their constitutional rights. Indian frustrations over this multibillion dollar project and using Gilgit Baltistan as its tool are quite visible. Indian is definitely upset as this project is going to give Pak economy a giant leap and Gilgit is considered as soft target because it borders China. Gilgit serves as a gateway to CPEC and becoming China an economic power in region and world is unacceptable for India. Therefore it is trying her best to exploit GB and to sabotage CPEC and considering Indian relations with West, its stance on GB and Kashmir is heard more than Pakistan. India media as usual is playing fake stories on its media about missing people and rebels in Gilgit Baltistan. Indian has always projected Kashmir as disputed territory and paid less attention to GB. But now when the benefits of CPEC have started coming out India feels threatened with Chinese influence and CPEC for Pakistan and claims GB as its territory.
India after many decades is claiming its right on GB though after partition people of GB wished to join Pakistan and when the Dixon proposals came up in 1950, India had accepted the proposal not to go against wishes of people particularly those who have aligned with Pakistan. Therefore Dixon proposals refrain Indian for a claim on Gilgit-Baltistan. According to SPIRI, “India’s opposition to CPEC reflects a concern over the internationalisation of the Kashmir dispute and the growing influence of China in the Indian Ocean, there is considerable concern within India that China, which has been neutral on Kashmir since 1963, can no longer be so now that it’s economic and security interests in these territories are growing.” Hence one can clearly understand Indian apprehensions on Kashmir and GB because of its strategic position. Sabotaging CPEC or GB has remained target of India and it will continue to do so in coming days but it’s the responsibility of Pakistan to highlight Indian plans. There is a need to enhance role of GB throughout Pakistan so that people should understand the worth and culture of that area. People of GB should be given better opportunities, more economic strength and their role in Pakistan’s development should be highlighted everywhere. Political rivalries always exist but those political differences should not affect life of those who are sharing major chunk of their obligations towards Pakistan.
— The writer works for Pakistan Institute for Conflict and Security Studies, a think-tank based in Islamabad.