Jun 10, 2011

Gilgit Baltistan: Report Sees Continued Threat of Chinese Penetration

A new report from the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) highlights the increasing interest of China in the Gilgit Baltisan region where Pakistan’s failure to address issues in the region is putting the cultural heterogeneity of the region at risk.

Below is an article published by the Tribune News Service:

India’s leading strategic affairs think tank has recommended a change of ‘discourse’ on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and suggests a multi-pronged approach to counter Pakistan[…]

The Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in a study “PoK: Changing the discourse” released last week warns against China’s growing designs in the vital Gilgit-Baltistan area that borders the Kargil-Drass region of India. “If the current pace of Chinese penetration is sustained then China may completely take over Gilgit-Baltistan by the year 2020”, says the study[…]

Explaining the Chinese interest, it says the Gilgit-Baltistan region is contiguous to China’s Xinjiang province where Muslim separatist feelings are strong. Therefore, China seems to be preparing to take over control over Gilgit-Baltistan, should the central authority in Pakistan become ineffective. “China has a strategic intent to dominate PoK in general and Gilgit-Baltistan in particular”, the 54-page study report says, while adding that Pakistan has ignored the resentment of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan against the increasing Chinese penetration into their area.

There is a suspicion that the Sunni majority state of Pakistan along with China may exterminate the Shia minority in Gilgit-Baltistan in order to silence all opposition.

According to one of the recommendations, “A message needs to be conveyed to China telling it that its role in PoK is totally unjustified in line with China’s stand that Kashmir is a ‘disputed territory’. China should be made to explain as to why it is engaging itself in developmental works in a region, that is claimed by India, without its consent”. The IDSA opines that the International community is waiting for India’s response to the presence of Chinese troops in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Suggesting an approach towards Pakistan, the IDSA study says: “There was greater need for India to take a more proactive approach on PoK, not only because it is a part of its territory but because of the high strategic stakes.” India should openly claim PoK in international fora. Also mentioned is how the discourse on autonomy in J&K needs to be dove-tailed in the context of what is taking place across the LoC in PoK. The study highlights how in PoK the term ‘Azadi’ does not go beyond the name ‘Azad Kashmir’.

The IDSA wants that the Indian government should provide scholarships to students from PoK and engage them in including the diaspora, especially those based in the West, in discussions. “Special documents should be issued to PoK residents. They may be allowed to visit India after a proper check of their antecedents. India must engage with the new emerging political leadership in PoK which is disillusioned with Pakistan’s approach”.

The IDSA had also conducted a round table in August last year on the subject by inviting global experts. IDSA started its research project in October 2009. It tracks developments in PoK and conducts in-depth research on the region. 

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