J&K – The issues around the state

Importance of Gilgit-Baltistan

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gilgit-Baltistan Region, CPEC

Mains level : China's vested interests in the Kashmir Valley

Pakistan government has recently announced that it would give the Gilgit-Baltistan region “provisional provincial status”. When that happens, G-B will become the sixth official province of Pakistan.

Tap to read more about: Reorganization of J&K

Gilgit-Baltistan

  • Gilgit-Baltistan is the northernmost territory administered by Pakistan, providing the country’s only territorial frontier, and thus a land route, with China, where it meets the Xinjiang Autonomous Region.
  • The region is an illegally occupied Indian territory as it was the part of the erstwhile princely state of Jammu & Kashmir as it existed in 1947 at its accession to India.
  • To G-B’s west is Afghanistan, to its south is Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, and to the east J&K.

Its current status

  • Though Pakistan, like India, links G-B’s fate to that of Kashmir, its administrative arrangements are different from those in PoK.
  • While PoK has its own Constitution that sets out its powers and their limits vis-à-vis Pakistan, G-B has been ruled mostly by executive fiat.
  • Until 2009, the region was simply called Northern Areas.
  • It had a Northern Areas Legislative Council with the Legislative Assembly. The NALC was an elected body, but had no more than an advisory role to the Islamabad.

Why the separate status?

  • Pakistan’s separate arrangement with G-B goes back to the circumstances under which it came to administer it. On November 1 1947, after J&K ruler Hari Singh had signed the Instrument of Accession with India.
  • Gilgit had been leased to the British by Hari Singh in 1935. The British returned it in August 1947.
  • Pakistan did not accept G-B’s accession although it took administrative control of the territory.
  • India went to the UN and a series of resolutions were passed in the Security Council on the situation in Kashmir.
  • Pakistan believed that neither G-B nor PoK should be annexed to Pakistan, as this could undermine the international case for a plebiscite in Kashmir.
  • It also reckons that in the event a plebiscite ever takes place in Kashmir, votes in G-B will be important too. This is why it is only being called “provisional” provincial status.

Move for a status-quo?

  • The plan to grant G-B provincial status is linked to CPEC and Chinese interest as well as a response to India’s abrogation of Art. 370.
  • While India has objected to the plan to make G-B a province of Pakistan and in the recent past asserted that it will take control of G-B, there is a realization that it is impossible to change the map now.
  • In this sense, it can be argued that the merger of G-B with Pakistan is a move that could help both countries put the past behind and move forward on the Kashmir issue, sometime in the future.

What do the people in G-B want?

  • The people of G-B have been demanding for years that it be made a part of Pakistan since there is virtual no connect with India.
  • Some have in the past demanded a merger with PoK, but the people of G-B have no real connect with Kashmir either.
  • They belong to several non-Kashmiri ethnicities and speak various languages, none of these Kashmiri.
  • A majority of the estimated 1.5 million G-B residents are Shias. There is anger against Pakistan for unleashing extremist sectarian militant groups that target Shias.
  • There is a movement for independence, but it has very little traction.
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