Since 1947, Kashmir issue continues to be casus belli between India and Pakistan. While the issue is still under UN mediation, both countries have agreed to resolve this bilaterally. The regions of Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and Kashmir (self-proclaimed as Azad J&K) under Pakistan’s control have been subjected to neglect and disregard. The people possess little affinity and demand autonomy from Pakistan.
PoK is ostensibly an autonomous, self-governing with notional President, Prime Minister and separate Supreme Court giving an impression of more distinctness from Pakistan. Pakistan Army is the final arbiter on all Kashmir matters and the security establishment exercises tight control even on media and press. Interference in its internal matters through its all-powerful Kashmir Council is a bone of contention in PoK politics. PoK is entirely dependent on the federal government for its financial resources. Anti-Pakistan slogans and widespread protests across PoK and GB have been witnessed against Pakistan’s ill-treatment of the region, its people and their enforced disappearances, water, environment, enforced taxation and exploitation of resources resulting in abject poverty and underdevelopment of the region. Draconian laws are used to stifle journalists and activists by persecution, harassment and vilification. For three decades it has been a recruiting, training, providing logistics and launch pads for state sponsored terror groups. It has a high density of Army deployment with high land ownership share by retired military personnel.
The PoK constitution has a clear injunction against persons or political parties propagating “against or taking part in activities prejudicial to the ideology of the state’s accession to Pakistan”. The continued deprivation of political, economic and human rights has been driving people of this strategic area to desperation. Influx of people from plains due to a planned demographic inversion has upset the ethnic balance and resulted in sectarian strife between Shia and Sunni.
Pakistan’s illegal ceding of Shaksgam Valley to China in 1963 and contemporary China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) have strengthened ties between these countries due to their anti-India stance.
However, the local populace is discontent. There is very little for the locals in its development due to Chinese industry and nationals’ employment in the project.
Pakistan has decided to include GB as fifth province and has been carrying out necessary work towards this. Outwardly, it seems as Pakistan’s’ retaliation to abrogation of Article 370. Albeit, the reason is the larger interest of protecting CPEC and other infrastructure projects through employment of state resources. However, by declaring this area as its fifth province, Pakistan has violated UN conventions on J&K. India has undertaken colossal efforts till date to fulfil its commitment towards upliftment of Jammu & Kashmir. It needs to revisit strategies to contain Pakistan and China in the illegally occupied region. All measures viz diplomacy, soft power and kinetic measures, if required to be exercised. A stable J&K supported by the masses will speed up the process and strengthen geopolitics in the region.
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