The recent new political map issued by Indian government has shown Azad Kashmir as a part of newly created union territory of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir while Gilgit Baltistan in the union territory of Ladakh, Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir reorganization order 2019 issued by the president of India include area of district Gilgit, Gilgit Wazarat, Chilas and tribal territory of 1947 in so called union territory of Ladakh. This move comes after 5th august action when India revoked the special status of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir by abrogating article 370 of the Indian constitution.

Let us have look at the history of Ladakh. Ladakh was part of Tibet and ruled by Tibetan kings and Chinese. The Mons and Indo-Aryan tribes were the ruler of western Ladakh and Zanskar in the pre-Buddhist period. According to R.C Arora, the Dards of Gilgit and Astor also ruled the area which is evident from sculptures and drawings found at Khalatse and Hanupatar. Kanishka, the emperor of Kushan dynasty and his successors and white Hun (Hunnic tribes of central Asia/Uighur region) ruled Ladakh and in the 9th century Ladakh was ruled by kings of central Tibet. Between 1380 to 1510 Muslim sufis preached Islam and Syed Ali Hamdani is the one who is known as founder of Islam in the region. Today, Muslims are 46 percent, Buddhist 40 percent and Hindus 12 percent. In 1834 the Sikh general Zorawar Singh invaded and annexed Ladakh to Jammu under suzerainty of the Sikh empire. European influx began in 1850 in the region. After Dogra annexation thousands of Buddhist monks left the country for Tibet. The Ladakhis belong to Mangolian race, mostly short height below five feet except in Naubra Valley. The people of Baltistan are also Tibetan origin and differ from Ladakhis being taller, with different social habits and being Muslims. Baltistan was connected with Dras (Kargil) by the Indus Valley and by Deosai Plain. The Indus river originates from Manasarowar lake in Tibet and flows through Ladakh into Baltistan. The Shyok river enters Baltistan from Ladakh and meets Indus river at Skardu.

Historically there was a famous trade route through Karakoram pass from Srinagar through Kargil and Leh to Yarkand, Khotan and Kashgar. Karakoram pass was used extensively by caravans of trades from Yarkand to Leh through Naubara valley. Leh (Ladakh) was British frontier post and situated on the land route to China and Central Asia. Ladakh was under wazir wazarat responsible for Baltistan also and had three tehsils, Skardu, Kargil and Ladakh. In winters wazir wazarat used to reside in Skardu. Historically Skardu held a strategic position towards Ladakh (IOK) on one side and the other beyond Karakoram Pass is the Yarkand valley in China. Skardu (Baltistan) remained under the influence of Mughals who imposed tribute on them mainly by Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb. Skardu was also known as “Little Tibet” when Mughal emperor Akbar sent his envoy to this region. Sikh considering themselves as successors to Mughals also demanded tribute from Baltistan and Ladakh. One Muhammad Shah from Skardu sought help from Sikhs in his fight for the throne of Skardu. It was a struggle for power which led to the occupation of Skardu. In case of Gilgit in 1842 when Maharaja Kashmir sent a Sikh army on the request of an ousted Raja again in his struggle for the throne of Gilgit. On 16 March 1846 Kashmir was sold to the Maharaja for 75 lacs Nanakshahi and according to article one of treaty all the hilly and mountainous country with its dependencies situated to the eastward of River Indus and west ward of River Ravi transferred to Maharaja. In this treaty there was no mention of Gilgit which was located north of Indus. Gilgit was established an agency under a British political agent in view of prevailing Russian threat.

In 1926, the British political agent in Gilgit wrote in a letter that a matter of practical convenience the agency was attached at that time (1889) to the state of Jammu and Kashmir but practically it remained under British control. In 1928 in a letter from Resident of Kashmir to Director Frontier Circles Survey of India the region was defined that territory comprised with Gilgit agency falls into three categories. One is state territory i.e., Gilgit Wazarat comprising Gilgit tehsil including Bunji with its niabat Astor. Second, the political districts of Nager, Hunza, Punial, Yasin, Ishkuman and the republic of Chilas. Third was un-administered areas of Darel, Tangir, Kandia, Sazin, Shatial, and Harban. In another letter in 1929 it was further clarified that Hunza, Nager, Chilas, Koh, Ishkuman and Yasin though under suzerainty of Kashmir were never recognized as a part of Kashmir. In 1935 Gilgit Wazarat was taken on lease by Britishers from Maharaja for 60 years. The Gilgit Wazarat included the areas of Astor, Bunji, Harmosh at Indus and Kargah nullah. The request was only for Gilgit Wazarat and there was no mention of political agency of Gilgit which was under the control of British. During partition the whole Gilgit agency was handed over to Maharaja and on 1 August 1947 brigadier Ghansara Singh assumed the responsibilities of governor Gilgit. The people of Gilgit Baltistan never accepted the authority of Dogra governor and on the night of 31 October 1947 the residence of governor was surrounded by Gilgit Scouts and in the morning of 1 November 1947 governor surrendered. The people of Gilgit agency proclaimed Gilgit as a part of Pakistan and hoisted Pakistan flag. It was only UN resolution of number 80 of 1950 both “Azad Kashmir” and “Northern Areas” (Gilgit and former political districts plus Baltistan) were included within the term state of Jammu and Kashmir. This is how the Northern Areas were thrown into melting pot of Kashmir dispute.

The Sikh/Dogra invasion and occupation cannot be a raison d etre for Gilgit Baltistan to be part of Jammu and Kashmir. It is something unique in the history of Gilgit Baltistan that the area was liberated by people themselves without outside help and opted for Pakistan. The Gilgit Baltistan assembly condemned controversial maps and passed a unanimous resolution against it. The people of Gilgit Baltistan are completely loyal to Pakistan and want their identity with Pakistan. This is evident from the fact that people of Gilgit Baltistan’s unconditional accession to Pakistan and subsequent wars of 48, 65, 71, Siachen and Kargil with India. It is therefore, India would be well advised to refrain from interfering in the affair of Gilgit Baltistan. The Pakistan’s foreign office has rejected new map issued by India saying “Incorrect, legally untenable, void and in complete violation of the UNSC resolution”. Foreign office further added “Pakistan rejects these political maps which are incompatible with UN maps”. German Chancellor Merkel during her recent visit to India said the current situation in India Occupied Kashmir is “not sustainable” and needs to change. The Nepalese government has also rejected the Indian new political map as its area situated in the far west has been included as Indian territory. India and Nepal share 1800 kilometers border and Uttarakhand (disputed border state) share 80 kilometers border with Nepal. Kalapani is 35 square kilometers area and is integral part of Nepal and situated in Darchula district of Nepal where as India placed it under the Pithoragarh, district of Uttarakhand. India has rejected the Nepalese claim by saying that our map accurately depicts sovereign territory. This area was occupied forcibly by Indian forces after their defeat in 1962 war while withdrawing. Nepali people protested across Nepal on this move of India also in front of India’s embassy carrying signs that read “Back off India” and this was also a popular twitter hash tag trend.

Similarly Chinese territory Aksai Chin has also been shown in the so called union territory of Ladakh which is undoubtedly integral part of China. In this region the first time border was drawn in 1860 by British and this line was never recognized by China. China recognizes the Macartney-Macdonald line as the actual boundary which puts Aksai Chin in Xinjiang region of China. During 1962 war the Indian army lost 43000 square kilometers of land to China in Ladakh. BJP, the ruling party is spear headed by RSS is trying to transform India into a purely a Hindu state as promised during election campaigns. The main aim of these new maps is to permanently change the status of Indian Occupied Kashmir by giving India control of the entire region that it did not physically posses.