oi-R C Ganjoo
The agenda to recapture PoK and GB provides the BJP with an exceptionally explosive strategy to change the narrative over the Kashmir issue and put Pakistan in defensive mode.
Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s statement in Srinagar recently has given a knee-jerk to Pakistan and further illuminated a ray of hope for the people of PoK-GB to shun the shackling of slavery from Pakistan. His statement was bold and clear that the development of the Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory (JKUT) will only be completed when Gilgit-Baltistan and PoK reunite with India.
He referred to the 1994 resolution, passed by Lok Sabha which has to be fulfilled. The 1994 resolution was passed while Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister and said that PoK and GB were an integral part of India by virtue of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India. Earlier, in 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a reference to Gilgit in a speech in which the people of the region thanked him for voicing their rights.
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This statement was not an impromptu one but part of an offensive strategy that aims to expand the Jammu and Kashmir territory to the areas under Pakistan’s illegal occupation. It also aims at dissuading Pakistan from providing political and diplomatic support to the cause of Kashmiris’ so-called right to self-determination.
India’s constitutionally claim on PoK and GB to be its integral part has been since 1949, when the ceasefire line was drawn between the two parts of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir. India preferred to maintain the status quo based on the existing borders along the Line of Control.
Additionally, the intensive debate on the Kashmir problem over decades pushed the strategic significance of Gilgit-Baltistan into the background until the onset of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in 2016.
The start of CPEC and the BJP’s rise to power occurred almost simultaneously. Two factors favoured the BJP to take an aggressive stance towards Pakistan and the territories under it without any fear of international reprisal.
First, the US and Indian interests converged against China and successive US administrations encouraged India to play the role of counterweight to China in the region. India was given unprecedented economic and diplomatic support to enhance its regional and international standing. Second, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s politics thrived by demonising Pakistan and exploiting anti-Muslim sentiments. It greatly enhanced the BJP’s global standing and served its domestic political requirement.
The agenda to recapture PoK and GB provides the BJP with an exceptionally explosive strategy to change the narrative over the Kashmir issue and put Pakistan in defensive mode. Since Modi became Prime Minister, PoK and GB have received exceptional attention in the Indian political and strategic discourse. Several research institutions and reports published have put the facts about PoK and GB in order, against distorted and false narratives of Pakistan.
The Parliament unanimously passed a resolution on February 22, 1994, which defined the territories of Occupied J&K and made it binding on the Indian government to take back the “occupied territories” from Pakistan’s control. The resolution says, “Pakistan must vacate the areas of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, which they have occupied through aggression; and resolves that all attempts to interfere in the internal affairs of India will be met resolutely.”
These days, Indian leaders, diplomats, and the media frequently raise issues of human rights, economic conditions, and the so-called demographic change of PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan. Rajnath said, “The Pakistan government is sowing the seeds of hatred in PoK and the time is not far when people will resort to mass rebellion there”. In 2001, when India-Pakistan tensions were at peak, the then-Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, spoke about the political and democratic system in PoK.
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On August 12, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired an all-party meeting over Kashmir wherein he stated that the time had come to expose the atrocities committed ‘by our neighbouring nation’ in Balochistan and PoK. This statement is considered a paradigm policy shift which was followed in the letter and spirit subsequently.
After the revocation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution in August 2019, India has highlighted the issues related to PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan considerably since then. India asked about the Shaksgam Valley which Pakistan swapped with China in 1963’s border agreement, gaining some territory and conceding areas that were already under Chinese administration. In the 1970s, India tried hard to prevent the construction of the Karakoram Highway, the sole land link between China and Pakistan, running through Gilgit-Baltistan – but to no avail.
These two regions are subjected to bad governance, corruption, and undue interference from the federal government in local affairs. It has surfaced and attracted criticism but has also taken the roots of sustained political discontent in both regions. Pakistan tried to declare Gilgit-Baltistan as the fifth province of Pakistan but due to its stance on Kashmir had to stop.
Adeel Magray, General Secretary of National Equality Party GB, while describing PoK-GB said, “We the people of so-called Azad Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan have become so helpless and demanding the return of our old Dogra laws instead of modern system and what I have written is the voice of a common man. Those who shout slogans of Pakistan who welcomed Pakistan here in 1947 and then stayed connected with Pakistan for a long time because they had the illusion that Pakistan is our well-wisher.
He further said that the people of PoK are living with so-called modern facilities and are not allowed to compare with India’s Jammu Kashmir. He said, “We have to praise imperialism instead of demanding our legal rights, thus honor has gone and agency charges are imposed, while the pimps of imperialism are everything they themselves are righteous.”
(R C Ganjoo is a senior journalist and columnist having more than 30 years experience of covering issues concerning national security, particularly Kashmir. He has worked with several prominent media groups and his articles have been published in many national and international publications.)
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of OneIndia and OneIndia does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
Story first published: Monday, November 21, 2022, 16:25 [IST]