NEW DELHI: Pakistan’s latest pronouncement on Gilgit-Baltistan (GB)–that it plans to give this disputed territory the status of a province–needs to be taken with a shaker of salt, officials in Delhi told StratNews Global. In doing so, Pakistan will surrender the very grounds on which it’s been claiming the whole of Kashmir–that it’s a disputed territory as per UN Security Council resolutions.
Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) are together referred to as PoJK (Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir) by India.
The Pak minister for Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan Affairs Ali Amin Khan Gandapur said last week that Prime Minister Imran Khan would soon visit the region and announce the elevation of GB into a full-fledged province.
“If Pakistan formally changes the status of the disputed territory of Gilgit-Baltistan which falls under PoJK, it will lose the locus standi that it has adopted, harping as it has been on its so-called disputed status and seeking a plebiscite as per a UNSC resolution,” said an official.
“After more than 70 years, Pakistan having failed to fulfill its obligation to withdraw forces from occupied territory first, wants a plebiscite. At the same time, it is making an occupied territory its new province,” said another official.
“It has no legal, political and moral authority or locus standi to change the status of GB,” he said adding that Pakistan “continues to violate UNSC resolutions on PoJK.”
So is the Imran Khan government hoping to retain the region’s ‘disputed’ status by banking on the report of a high-level committee constituted in April 2015 by then PM Nawaz Sharif? The March 2017 report had suggested the de facto integration of the territory with Pakistan, but not a de jure one as that would affect Pakistan’s position on Kashmir. Essentially, it suggested the “provisional” integration of GB as a province.
While there are no clear answers as yet to the reason behind these moves, Pakistan watchers in India are clear that “It’s just a move to usurp illegally occupied Indian territory by making it a province.”
Pakistan’s policy towards this region over the last seven decades has been one of studied neglect. The focus has been on maintaining “calculated ambiguity” in defining the constitutional status of PoJK.
Asked a Pak-watcher, “Is it working towards recognising the existing Line of Control (LoC) into an International Border i.e. to convert de facto into de jure in an attempt to appease the Chinese to give cover for its CPEC project through occupied territory?”
Imran Khan has been under pressure from “all weather friend” China to grant GB a political status. Beijing wants this done as it’s pouring billions of dollars into the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Part of Beijing’s ambitious BRI (Belt and Road Initiative), it enters Pakistan in GB. There is also a view here that GB is an attempt to divert attention from the government’s other domestic troubles.