Gilgit-Baltistan Region(GB)/Northern Areas
A brief history of ‘GB’, which is also known as, the Northern Areas, would put into context the process by which the Northern most territory of Pakistan came to acquire a status of ambivalence.
Becoming a part of Jammu and Kashmir- 1846
Culturally, Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) is more akin to the tribes of Central Asia than that of Pakistan. In 1842, because of a conquest made by the Dogra commander Wasir Lakhpat, the region came to be ruled by the Sikhs and the Dogras. After the defeat of the Sikhs in the Anglo-Sikh war of 1846, ‘GB’ was made part of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, though it remained under Dogra rule.
In 1935, the British leased the territory of ‘GB’ because of its strategic location in the northern borders of India. As per the details given by then Capt. BM All, a British Army officer attached in Delhi, he said: “That the administration of the ‘GB’ remained in the hands of a British officer who was also stationed in Delhi. However, the security in the ‘GB’ sector was made the responsibility of the Gilgit Scouts, also comprising the British.”
In 1947, the British returned the territory back to the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir. Maharaja Hari Singh appointed Brigadier Ghansar Singh as the governor of ‘GB’. Gilgit Scout was the local army unit, which still had British officers (Major W A Brown and Captain A S Mathieson) as Officer Commanding troops of this garrison. Therefore, there was a dichotomy of its command chain for some time after being handed over to the Maharaja. As per Joydeep Sircar’s article, the British officer opened the gates of GB in Pakistan. It says: “In the Kashmir War that broke out in late 1947, the action of the British officer commanding the Gilgit garrison in going over to the Pakistani side opened the entry for Pakistan forces to move into Baltistan”.This was a violation the in terms of the legality of accession as ‘GB’ technically was a part of Kashmir. The issue stands unresolved until today. In fact, with the CPEC passing through this has further complicated a solution.
When during partition, the princely states of the country were given a choice to join either India or Pakistan; Maharaja Hari Singh of J&K acceded to India. Soon after, the Pakistani army and tribals occupied this region by November 1947 and used it as a base to carry out attacks in nearby regions. Legally, this area is a part of J&K and Pakistan continues to occupy this area by force. Gilgit is the gateway to the Western Karakoram, and Pakistani troops moving East up the Indus had little trouble in occupying Skardu, the key to the Central Karakoram. An effort to capture Leh by these raiders was foiled by the sheer courage of a small Indian column. The fall of Leh would have opened the gateway to the Eastern Karakoram. Similar courageous action thwarted the Pakistan raiders’ effort to capture the Nubra and upper Shyok valleys. Here, an account of the bravery of Major Rinchen and Capt. Prithi Chand needs recollection. This enabled India to push forward up the Shyok to the Karakoram Pass.” However, the fact is that the ‘GB’ was lost. The consequences of this loss has now magnified into a geopolitical loss as the Chinese have ingressed through KKH/CPEC and that India has been outflanked and outmaneuvered in the current chess game.
Just to recollect again, just before the 1971 war, when the clouds of war were already showing, then that time GOC 3 Infantry Divison, Major General SP Malhotra (now retired) directed then Major Rinchen to again look after the Nubra and Shyok sector during the war.Rinchen again matched the hour with victories in his hand. Such has been the bravery of local Ladakhi fighters.
GB Area: Pakistan Administration since 1947
‘GB’ came under de facto control of the Pakistani government, on November 16, 1947. Unlike the region known as ‘Azad Kashmir’ that is located to its south, the ibid area was not given a separate constitution, but was arbitrarily governed by Pakistan. In 1975, the territory was given an advisory council and in 1999 under orders from the Supreme Court, a change in administration was enacted in which the Advisory Council was renamed as a Northern Areas Legislative Council. The locals have always aspired for a politically strong body to enable growth, but have been consistently denied to the territory.
In 2009, the ‘GB’ (Empowerment and Self-Governance) Order was announced replacing the Northern Areas Legislative Council with the Legislative Assembly. The influence of Pakistan on ‘GB’Area can be referred to as “a case of interstate colonialism.” Deriving maximum profits from the region’s strategic location and economic resources, the government of Pakistan had left the people of the area without any basic rights or state benefits. Constitutionally until today, ‘GB’ is not even a part of Pakistan. At the same time, Pakistan has ensured that the region is not given a status of autonomy. As can be seen, that the ‘GB’ area too, fully belongs to Ladakh /India again by way of Kashmir’s accession to India.
However, recently Pakistan has narrated and intends to declare this region as the fifth province of Pakistan. The British parliament on March 23, 2017 passed a motion condemning Pakistan’s announcement declaring Gilgit-Baltistan as its fifth frontier. The motion headed by British Conservative leader Bob Blackman stated that Gilgit-Baltistan, being part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, has been illegally occupied by Pakistan, denying the people of the region, basic fundamental rights.Probably, it is the Chinese pressure, which is forcing Pakistan to declare it as the fifth province. Obviously, the Chinese have the security of the China-Pakistan Economic corridor passing through this area as their main concern. India has objected to this intention and has already declared it as illegal.
In these mountains and in Baluchistan, have been found nearly all the minerals Pakistan currently offers to the world market, including aquamarine, topaz, peridot, ruby, emerald, amethyst, morganite, zoisite, spinel, sphene, and tourmaline. Even the areas like Khappalu which are near and west of the Siachin area (Gaanshai area, Baltistan district) – have reported of many minerals like Aquamarine, amethyst, and fine golden rutile quartz.
Finally, as it can be seen that both Ladakh and GB area have been inalienably part of India’s governance and have been historically and culturally well inter-woven with India. Therefore Chinese recent assertions otherwise only proves the absurdity of Chinese expansion and hegemony. Thus guarding these indomitable frontiers in the Himalayas is the sacred duty of India.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.