On 1 Nov 2020 Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that his government would give the territory of Gilgit Baltistan provisional provincial status, a far cry from the indifferent status enjoyed over 70 years.
Gilgit Baltistan has been
in the news over the last few years mainly because of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a low level local agitational movement for better rights, and recently also because of India’s avowed intent to integrate that territory after the Constitutional decisions taken on J&K by the Indian Government on August 5, 2020.
Unfortunately not much attention
has been paid towards understanding some of the complexities about this territory which is currently under Pakistan’s control but otherwise forms a part of the territory of J&K which was under Maharaja Hari Singh’s control, pre-Partition.
It essentially forms a part of J&K to which India lays full claim, but over which it currently does not exercise physical control.
Under India’s Joint Parliamentary Resolution of February 22, 1994 the entire territory of J&K belongs to India and that is what Gilgit Baltistan’s status should actually be; a territory in waiting, to integrate with the mainland.
The map of J&K published by India on October 1, 2019 shows GB merged with Ladakh.
There are a few questions which arise while looking towards untangling some of the knots of complexity regarding
Gilgit Baltistan’s status.
First, why did Pakistan not merge Gilgit Baltistan with PoK to create a province and thus project that it had a full claim over J&K, but was administrating
only the rump territory under its control?
Second, what is the geostrategic importance of Gilgit Baltistan which makes it such a highly contentious and sought after territory?
Third, why is Pakistan now attempting to change the status of the territory by giving it provisional provincial status?
of these needs a brief explanation before we can ascertain what India can do to ensure the persistence of its narrative on this issue.
It needs to be known that Pakistan’s administrative
units consist of four provinces (Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, and Sindh), two autonomous territories (Pakistan Occupied Kashmir or PoK, Gilgit Baltistan) and one federal territory (Islamabad Capital Territory).