Indian Civil - Military dirty game plan is dangerous against Pakistan?
ISLAMABAD - Under Connect Central Asia Policy Indian Civil and military command has planned to capture Gilgit Baltistan along with Azad Kashmir.
Control of the geostrategic province in the state of Jammu and Kashmir will give India access to energy resources while limiting the reach and ambitions of Pakistan and China.
In the existing South Asian geopolitical setting, the disputed Kashmir valley does not possess any significant geostrategic value for its three neighbouring powers of India, Pakistan and China, among which the state is sandwiched. Since the division of British India in 1947, Delhi has kept its eye on the "strategically indispensable" province of Gilgit-Baltistan, part of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, and it is in this regional hinterland that the fate of the Indian subcontinent is being reworked.
Soon after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ring-wing government unilaterally annulled Kashmir's special status, India's top political and military leadership made repeated assertions about "reclaiming" Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan province from its archrival.
On 12 September, Indian army chief General Bipin Rawat said that India's "next agenda" was to "retrieve" Pakistan-administered parts of Kashmir from the "clutches" of Islamabad and make it part of India. "The government takes actions in such matters. The institutions of the country will work as per the orders of the government. The army is always ready," he said.
Earlier, a statement issued on 10 September by the secretariat of Indian Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu said that "bilateral talks with Pakistan would be held only on Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)". He made similar proclamations when speaking at an event on 28 August, after the annulment of Kashmir's autonomy.
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh also asserted that if talks were to be held with Pakistan, "they would be about PoK and not on any other issue". Indian Union Minister Jitendra Singh further claimed that the Modi government's "next agenda" is "retrieving parts" of Kashmir under Pakistan and merging them with India.
"It is not only my party's commitment, but it was also part of a unanimously passed resolution of the Parliament in 1994. This was passed by the Congress-led government of [former prime minister] Narsimha Rao," Singh said.
In August, Singh urged the redrawing of Indian boundaries with Pakistan that included not only PoK but also Gilgit-Baltistan. "We must assert more strongly and consistently our claim on Gilgit and Baltistan," wrote India's former foreign secretary, Shyam Saran, in his column for the India Today magazine, adding: "Why not invite and give prominence to dissidents and activists from these areas? After all, they are technically our own citizens."
Islamabad has red-flagged these assertions by top Indian politicians and policymakers on annexing Pakistan-administered Azad (Free) Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit-Baltistan.
"The Pakistani army has solid information that they [India] are planning to do something in Pakistani Kashmir, and they are ready and will give a solid response," Prime Minister Imran Khan told the Pakistan National Assembly on the country's Independence Day. He added that its army was preparing to respond to "anticipated Indian aggression" in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. "The time has come when we will teach [India] a lesson."
The importance of Gilgit-Baltistan
Situated at the confluence of three great mountain ranges - the Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush - Gilgit-Baltistan is a vital geostrategic site. The region borders Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to the west, Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor to the northwest, China's Xinjiang province to the east and northeast, AJK to the southwest and the 480km Line of Control (a military control line serving as a de facto border) running alongside Indian-controlled Kashmir in the southeast.
The province effectively provides Pakistan with direct land access to China through Xinjiang via the Karakoram Highway. Beijing's ambitious $60 billion (about R875 billion) China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure programme - a vital component of China's transcontinental Belt and Road Initiative - passes through the region, which is considered the main access point between the neighbouring countries.
Through the CPEC project, Islamabad has become China's gateway to the world's energy market and it has assumed a centrality in Beijing's foreign policies. Unlike most countries that welcomed the CPEC project, India has expectedly voiced its unhappiness over the CPEC, conveying to Beijing that the project was "unacceptable" as it passed through the disputed region of AJK and Gilgit-Baltistan, which Delhi claims as its own territory.
Gilgit-Baltistan, in the current geostrategic alignment, cuts India from the mineral and energy-rich markets of Central Asian countries including Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, as well as Afghanistan. Islamabad has long refused to allow Delhi transit to these Central Asian states, further annoying India as it aims to tap such energy resources for its growing fuel demands. Delhi also perceives growing Sino-Pak cooperation, as evidenced by the CPEC, as an attempt to contain Delhi's clout as a regional power.
India initiated its Connect Central Asia policy in 2012 to counter the growing Sino-Pak influence in the region, and sought to engage Iran and Afghanistan to circumvent Pakistan and gain direct access to the markets of Central Asia. Delhi, especially, increased its bilateral cooperation with Tehran to access oil supplies, and invested in the development of Iran's Chabahar Port as a counter to Pakistan's critically important Gwadar port. The development of the port was further aimed at opening a route to landlocked Afghanistan, where Delhi has developed security and economic ties.