The location of Gilgit Baltistan is strategically important as it borders Indian occupied Kashmir, China and Afghanistan. Gilgit Baltistan as important today as it was in 1880s during the great game. The Mintaka Pass is the point where the borders of Pakistan, China, Afghanistan and Tajikistan are linked. Area wise Gilgit Baltistan is more than 6 times larger than Azad Kashmir. Gilgit Baltistan is rich in minerals, hydro-electric power resources, also gateway to CPEC and provides access to Gwadar and mineral rich Central Asian States. Gilgit Baltistan is vital for Pakistan because of its strategic location, hydro electric potentials of Indus River and glaciers.

India is continuously raising questions on the construction of CPEC through Gilgit Baltistan being disputed. India is also opposing a possible merger of Gilgit Baltistan with Pakistan. India is feeling threatened by increasing Chinese influence and CPEC in the region. This is the real issue and India is irked by Chinese presence next-door. India has a so called claim on Gilgit Baltistan as its integral part and also Indian official maps depicts Gilgit Baltistan as a part of Indian territory. In 1994 Indian Parliament passed a unanimous resolution that “the region is integral part of India by virtue of its accession to it in 1947. India recently reacted sharply on the news that Sartaj Aziz Commission has proposed Gilgit Baltistan as fifth Province of Pakistan, terming it entirely unacceptable and the Jammu and Kashmir is integral part of India. On this the ruling BJP is of the view to repel the article 370 of constitution which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir.

It was the year of 1842 when for the first time a Sikh force entered Gilgit on the request of an ousted Raja, which reshaped/changed the future history of Gilgit. On 1st November 1947, the Dogra Governor was arrested by Gilgit Scouts and Pakistan Flag was raised. After liberation of Gilgit, different contingents comprising men of Gilgit Scouts, and volunteers under the command of officers of Gilgit Scouts and 6th Jammu and Kashmir Infantry move towards Baltistan and Kargil. Baltistan was liberated on 14 August 1948. Even the areas of Dras and Kargil were captured by these irregular forces. Because of increasing pressure by Gilgit Scouts and volunteers, Indian air force bombed Gilgit town on 7th July and 14th September, 1948. During 1965 war the Gilgit scouts bravely defended all approaches against Indian aggression. During 1971 war, Indian army crossed ceasefire line and occupied four villages namely Chalunka, Turtuk, Tykshi and Thang in Shyok valley, Ghanche district of Baltistan while there was no opposition. In 1984, Indian army started occupying key peaks of Siachen in a major airborne operation which resulted into quick response from Pak Army to stop further advancement of Indian army. In 1999 Pakistan faced yet another battle with Indian army in the area of Dras and Kargil. The people of Gilgit Baltistan have close religious, ethnic and linguistic ties with the people of Kargil. Here again Pak army (mostly NLI troops) faced and out classed a superior army and successfully captured strategic heights and threatened Srinagar-Leh highway.

Indian interest in Gilgit Baltistan is evident from the fact that recently a member of Indian Parliament, (BJP) has moved a bill in the Lok Sabha seeking reservations of five seats in Lok Sabha and one seat in Rajya Sabha for Gilgit Baltistan. In the Indian occupied Kashmir there are 25 reserved vacant seats for Gilgit Baltistan. In 2015, Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval while addressing BSF troops said that “we also have 106 kilometers long non-contiguous border with Afghanistan (Wakhan Corridor)”. In his Independence Day speech in 2016, Indian Prime Minister openly made a mention of Gilgit and Balochistan. According to Indian Prime Minister, the people of Gilgit have thanked him for voicing for their rights/human rights violation. (name one person from GB).

Gilgit Baltistan assembly condemned controversial remarks made by the Indian Prime Minister and passed a unanimous resolution against it. Big rallies were held across Gilgit Baltistan to condemned the statement of Indian Prime Ministers. They conveyed that the people of Gilgit Baltistan are real Pakistanis and will be with Pakistan. Chairman Joint Chief Staff Committee General Zubair Mehmood Hayat confirmed in a speech that India has established a special cell at a cost of 500 million dollars to sabotage CPEC. The Pakistani interior ministry has recently warned government of Gilgit Baltistan that India has made plans to attack the CPEC Installations/a possible terrorist attack to sabotage the mega project. Reportedly, 400 young Muslims are getting training in Afghanistan to carry out attacks on targets including bridges on Karakoram Highway (KKH), the CPEC route. Reportedly, in the past, RAW has been instrumental in exploiting sectarian issue because of its known history and some so called minor sub-nationalist groups in the area. The so called sub-nationalist groups have no support at all in Gilgit Baltistan. Some dissident groups (sponsored) from abroad are running a campaign to instigate locals of Gilgit Baltistan against CPEC and Pakistan.

The mainstream political parties of Pakistan have setup local branches and control the electoral process in the area. In January 2017, Gilgit Baltistan Inspector General claimed to have foiled a plan sponsored by India RAW to sabotage CPEC. Some 12 person were arrested in Yasin valley of Ghizer district and also seized a larger quantity of weapons during a raid. Police officials also confirmed those arrested received funds from RAW to sabotage CPEC and were also planning to attack a Jammat Khana in Ghizer and other parts to trigger sectarian unrest. India media too is vigorously propagating by airing fake stories. The Times of India portrayed a video (by election gathering) as an uprising against Pakistan. Recentally, Awami Action Committee of Gilgit Baltistan denied allegations by an Indian media that the strike was against new taxes and was not anti-state. These strikes were portrayed as anti-state by Indian media. Indian media is manufacturing lies in utter desperation as they did in the past about presence off Chinese troops in Gilgit Baltistan. Recently India lodged a protest against Gilgit Baltistan order-2018 by summoning Pakistan’s deputy high Commissioner and conveyed that entire Jammu and Kashmir including Gilgit Baltistan is an integral part of Indian occupied Kashmir by virtue of its accession of 1947. The loyalty and sincerity of people of Gilgit Baltistan cannot be doubted and they are above this.

This is evident from the fact that people of Gilgit Baltistan’s unconditional accession to Pakistan and subsequent wars of 48, 65, 71 Siachen, Kargil and war on terror. The people of Gilgit Baltistan are completely loyal to Pakistan and all of them are willing to lay their life for Pakistan. The Gilgit Baltistan has been honored with Nishan-e-Haider through Lalik Jan. There are no anti Pakistan sentiments in Gilgit Baltistan or a slogan against CPEC. Indians are living in a fool’s paradise wanting to win support in Gilgit Baltistan. The people of Gilgit Baltistan want their identity with Pakistan. It is therefore, India would be well advised to refrain from interfering in the affairs of Gilgit Baltistan.

 

The writer is the Commissioner of Afghan Refugees Organisation Balochistan.