The Gilgit Route (Silk route) was an important link between the sub-continent and Tarim Basin in China. Mintaka, Kilk, Darkot and Baroghil passes were the entry points to ancient India. The route from Gilgit to Kashgar was also called the Silk Route. It originated from Gilgit, along river Hunza, and reached the Passu village from where it crossed river Hunza, towards the Kilk Pass, entered Taghdumbash of Xinjiang and then headed towards Tashkurgan. From there, one route leads to Yarkand and the other to Kashgar. In the late 19th Century, fortnightly postal services existed between Gilgit and Kashgar (China) via Kilk and Mintaka pass. The former state of Hunza had diplomatic relations with China and paid a nominal annual tribute. Rashkam, now part of China, used to be a part of the state of Hunza and Sarikol (China) in Pamir, on the borders of China and Tajikistan, and was also under the control of Hunza—used as a grazing ground for their animals.

The silk route is now replaced by the Karakoram Highway. It was constructed under challenging conditions and was completed in 1978 by the Frontier Works Organization (FWO) and Chinese engineers. Since then, the people of Gilgit-Baltistan are in continuous touch with Xinjiang region for trade activities and their markets are flooded with Chinese goods. Today, Gilgit-Baltistan has become the centre of a new great game played by foreign powers, especially India, because of its importance that has increased manifold with the start of a 46 billion dollars project, which passes through the region. This project will be a game changer not only for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan, but the rest of the country as well.

The pace of work on CPEC projects has already picked up across Pakistan. India has not accepted this project, claiming that it passes through disputed territory, and is trying its best to damage the project in the region through the exploitation of its vulnerabilities. It has been confirmed that India has established a special cell, at the cost of 500 million dollars, to sabotage the project. Intelligence agencies have already discovered Indian plans to sabotage the mega project in Gilgit-Baltistan and the government of Gilgit-Baltistan has been alerted. Some dissidents, at the behest of RAW, are running campaigns to incite the locals of the region against CPEC and Pakistan. Indian media too is vigorously propagating by printing and airing fake news/stories. The basic aim is to divert the attention of the international community from its atrocities in Indian Illegally Occupied Kashmir (IIOK) and the recent humiliation in Ladakh at the hands of Chinese army. At the same time, India has also subjected Pakistan to hybrid and fifth generation warfare, using all possible options to damage Pakistan by exploiting its vulnerabilities.

Last year, a European Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) uncovered a network of 265 fake news outlets in more than 65 countries managed by India to influence the European Union and United Nations with content critical of Pakistan. There is growing negative propaganda on social media against Pakistan, its armed forces, CPEC and Gilgit-Baltistan. In 2015, Indian national security advisor Ajit Doval, while addressing BSF troops said, “we also have 106-kilometre-long non-contiguous border with Afghanistan (Wakhan Corridor).” In his 2016 Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Modi said that the people of Gilgit have thanked him for voicing their human rights violations. In 2011, general V K Singh, the then Indian army chief, alleged that there were thousands of Chinese troops in Gilgit-Baltistan. In 2010, Selig Harrison, in his article for New York Times, claimed the presence of 7000 to 11,000 Chinese troops in Gilgit-Baltistan. He also mentioned the construction of some tunnels in the region, the likely use for a gas pipeline from Iran to China through the Karakoram Highway and a missile storage facility. China rejected reports of its troops in Gilgit-Baltistan and called the story a lie.

General V K Singh (retired) revealed in a recent interview that the Indian army’s plan to take over Gilgit-Baltistan is ready. He further added that Gilgit-Baltistan belongs to India and it will come to them at the right time. On May 29, 2020, a seminar was organised in India where the theme was, ‘a non-military method to wrest Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan.’ The seminar was attended by retired army generals and diplomats. The discussion revolved around hybrid warfare, grey war, exploiting the vulnerabilities of the region and the use of social media with focus on why Gilgit-Baltistan should not integrate with Pakistan. The Indian print and electronic media also reported another fabricated and fake news that a Chinese aircraft had landed at the Skardu airport. Their source was a so-called satellite image. They also circulated more fake news which stated that Pakistan had deployed 20,000 additional troops along Gilgit-Baltistan’s border, equal to that of the Chinese in Ladakh. They also accused the Chinese army for holding talks with the Al Badr Organisation to incite violence in IIOK and unleash terror in India. Pakistan had rejected all the reports and labelled them to be false and irresponsible.

According to India Today, Pakistan is looking at an opportunity to open a two-front war on India and there is a looming threat. In an interview, Indian Army Chief General Narvane said, “we must not lose sight from where collusion between China and Pakistan can take place. Though it can take place at any level, Siachen and Shaksgam valley are the places where the territory of these two countries meet. The threat of conspiracy is maximum in the strategically important glacier which forces us to keep pursuing its possession”. Pakistan rejected Indian hullabaloo initially on the forming of a caretaker setup for Gilgit-Baltistan and now on the baseless contention regarding the conduct of the upcoming elections in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Pakistan has also rejected recent remarks of India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson regarding Gilgit-Baltistan’s elections, saying it had no locus standi to comment. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan will not fall prey to Indian conspiracies as they are well aware of the fabricated news and strategy behind such attempts. Friendship between China and Pakistan is very strong and based on mutual trust and respect. The close relations of China with Pakistan are very important for peace, development and stability within the region. It is rightly said that the Pakistan-China friendship is higher than the mountains, deeper than the ocean, stronger than steel and sweeter than honey.