What to study?
- For Prelims: Location of Gilgit- Baltistan, eigth thousanders.
- For Mains: Controversy over the administration of the region, India’s concerns, viable solution.
Context: India has lodged a strong protest on recent order by Supreme Court of Pakistan on the so-called “Gilgit-Baltistan” which is an interference in India’s internal affairs.
What’s the issue?
The Supreme Court of Pakistan has extended its powers to Gilgit-Baltistan regarding the area’s constitutional status. The order states that changes to the constitutional status of Gilgit-Baltistan will be determined through a referendum which will be held within 14 days. It further read that until then, people living in the area and in Kashmir will be given fundamental human rights.
What has India said?
Entire state of Jammu and Kashmir, which also includes the so-called ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’ has been, is and shall remain an integral part of India. Pakistan government or judiciary have no locus standi on territories illegally and forcibly occupied by it. Any action to alter the status of these occupied territories by Pakistan has no legal basis whatsoever.
Where is Gilgit Baltistan located?
Located in the northern Pakistan. It borders China in the North, Afghanistan in the west, Tajikistan in the north west and Kashmir in the south east.
It shares a geographical boundary with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and India considers it as part of the undivided Jammu and Kashmir, while Pakistan sees it as a separate from PoK. It has a regional Assembly and an elected Chief Minister.
The USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) also passes through this region.
Gilgit-Baltistan is home to five of the “eight-thousanders” and to more than fifty peaks above 7,000 metres (23,000 ft). Three of the world’s longest glaciers outside the polar regions are found in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Pakistan, in 2017, proposed to declare the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region as its fifth Province, a move that may raise concerns in India as it borders the disputed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Why it wants to declare as fifth province?
- With a $50 billion investment in the CPEC, China would hardly want the territory through which the route passes to have a dubious status.
- 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.
- Declaration will also help Pakistan to tap the fresh water resources in the region and to make use of it for agriculture, hydroelectricity generation etc.
- Such move can also help China to get increased access in region and counter India jointly with Pakistan.
- Gilgit- Baltistan is part of J&K and any such move would seriously damage Pakistan’s Kashmir case. Two UN resolutions of August 13, 1948 and January 5, 1949 clearly established a link between GB and the Kashmir issue.
- Making the region 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”
- 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.
Sources: the hindu.
Mains Question: Why does Pakistan want to declare Gilgit-Baltistan as their fifth province? Examine the impediments that Pakistan faces in making Gilgit-Baltistan its fifth province.