As the status of Kashmir is once again being debated due to changing geopolitics and economic interests, the British are back at the game. Recently, the British Parliament has passed a resolution criticizing Pakistan’s plan to annex Gilgit and Baltistan as part of its fifth province. This move, many Pakistani experts feel, could legitimize its territorial claim and supremacy of Pakistan constitution to govern the region legally. This will in turn keep Indian argument of GB as a disputed territory at bay. It appears that Pakistan has done it after some advice from the Chinese.If this was the case in the beginning that Pakistan wanted to annex GB as part of its fifth province, the job would have been done long ago.
As the status of Kashmir is once again being debated due to changing geopolitics and economic interests, the British are back at the game. Recently, the British Parliament has passed a resolution criticizing Pakistan’s plan to annex Gilgit and Baltistan as part of its fifth province. This move, many Pakistani experts feel, could legitimize its territorial claim and supremacy of Pakistan constitution to govern the region legally. This will in turn keep Indian argument of GB as a disputed territory at bay. It appears that Pakistan has done it after some advice from the Chinese. If this was the case in the beginning that Pakistan wanted to annex GB as part of its fifth province, the job would have been done long ago.
Since Pakistan is looking for a fifth province which in the 60s and 70s it tried to annex Afghanistan as one such fifth province, every time the calculation has gone wrong.
Thus, what is the necessity to make GB as fifth province with so much in hurry. The Pakistani government which had earlier constituted a panel by Sartaj Aziz has now claimed that its recommendation on GB is the only way forward.
Although it has been a long pending demand of some GB provincial officials that to be part of Pakistan for local governance issues, that is largely on administration related issues not on legal issues.
What Pakistan is doing one can see it as a strategic move to annex the province to finish its status as part of Jammu and Kashmir which India claims.
However, Pakistani experts feel it is unlikely the Pakistani government would change its stand on the larger Kashmir issue even if the GB is annexed as the fifth province of the Pakistan.
Then why this is being done in a hush and hurry manner. The game plan could be a piece of advice from the Chinese that their investment on CPEC which passes through PoK could come under jeopardy in future.
If GB is disputed then CPEC could be disputed. In case GB is legitimize then Chinese plan will succeed. This is a dream project for Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The Chinese plan to get a legal sanction from India on GB did not come through. Then the Chinese CPC through its various mouthpieces like Global Times and Peoples Daily narrated status of Kashmir in some platforms.
They showed their benevolence as how neutral China is on the issue of Kashmir. They are only investing in GB to change the lives of people.
Although many have questioned which people the Chinese are talking about, some have even named CPEC as China-Punjab Economic Corridor.
While the Baluchs are up in arms against the project, the people of GB are also warning Pakistani government not to meddle in their territory or refrain from changing the status quo. The Valley politicians like S A S Gilani and the Mirwaiz have also warned Pakistani government.
But they have done it in the past only to protect their interest in the Valley. Some GB expatriates have also started working to challenge both China and Pakistan on laying the CPEC on their territory without their permission.
They are now planning to file a suit in the International Court of Justice. China has bitter memory of ICJ as it ruled in favor of Philippines on South China Sea case which damaged China’s audacious nine dash line claim in last July.
This may have prompted China to list CPEC under a UN Security Council resolution which says for the first time to incorporate China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a multi-billion inter-continental connectivity mission that has a flagship project passing through Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK).
The resolution, which extends an ongoing UN assistance mission to Afghanistan, says international efforts should be strengthened to implement the BRI.
Nevertheless, the UN endorsing the BRI could complicate the situation as far as India’s claims are concerned. Indeed, both China and Pakistan have periodically raised with India to join the project. If that happens, the legality of PoK will go in favor of Pakistan, whereas India will lose its claim.
But it opens new opportunity in which there will be a realignment of various equations. Pakistan hardly gives a damn about what Kashmiris feel about such a move since China the largest donor and investor has made it a point to Pakistani military and civilian leadership that they need to do more about disputed status of PoK.
Since India is averse to join CPEC, the alternate way is to make PoK legal. This is a Chinese way of doing business slowly but completely. Now the CPEC is going to upstage the whole ecological balance which will have enormous environmental damage to even India.
China has done the same in Tibetan Plateau but got away with it as there will be no opposition to its actions due to fragile Tibetan unity. But the case of GB is different. Apart from India, others are ready to take on this subject.
The British have tabled a resolution on March 23 sponsored by Conservative Party leader Bob Blackman which says that Pakistan is attempting to annex the already disputed area. Gilgit-Baltistan is a legal and constitutional part of the state of Jammu & Kashmir of India, which is illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947, and where people are denied their fundamental rights including the right of freedom of expression.
Already, two conservative US think tanks have asked for greater restraint by Pakistan. This shows that both China and Pakistan are now up to some regional geopolitics to change the status of Kashmir. This will not only have greater impact for the region, it may lead to even war.