Formalizing illegal occupation
Pakistan has decided to make Gilgit-Baltistan, a part of the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, its fifth province. A constitutional amendment for changing the status of the region is in the offing. In1970, Gilgit-Baltistan was made a separate administrative unit and named ‘Northern Areas’. Gilgit-Baltistan has a strategic importance for India. It borders PoK to the south, the Khyber-Pakhtunistan province of Pakistan to the west, the Wakhan corridor of Afghanistan to the nortrh, the Xinjiang province of China to the east and north-east and Jammu and Kashmir to the south-west. The $54 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes through Gilgit-Baltistan.
It is this which is believed to have prompted Pakistan to change the status of this area and make it a full-fledged province. India has already made its position clear that the proposed corridor would go through Indian territory now under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. Recently, China offered India to join the CPEC which, it said, would be economically beneficial to this country. The offer was a calculated move. If India joined the CPEC it would virtually amount to renouncing its claim on Gilgit-Baltistan and, by extension, on the whole of PoK. Now China is believed to have put pressure on Pakistan to formalize its position on this region. Hence the move to upgrade this area as the ‘fifth’ province of Pakistan.
As things stand, India can do little except lodge a formal protest and reiterate its well known position that the whole of Jammu and Kashmir is an inalienable part of India including the part now under Pakistan’s occupation. Nothing short of a war can prevent Pakistan from going ahead with its decision. But there is a sinister implication in the present Pak move. If Pakistan can make one area of PoK as a province, it can also declare the whole of Pak-Occupied Kashmir as another province and declare that it no longer considers the PoK as a ‘disputed’ territory but a part of Pakistan. Rather, it may argue, it is the Indian Kashmir which is a disputed territory that has to be integrated with Pakistan. India must launch a diplomatic campaign against Pakistan and draw the world’s attention that Islamabad is legalizing illegal occupation. The issue should be raised in the United Nations and the world told that India does not recognize Pakistan’s claim on any part or the whole of Jammu and Kashmir. The robber cannot claim the loot as its legal property.