Brigadier Dr Vijay Sagar Dheman
Gilgi-Baltistan is located at the centre of Eurasia where it affords the multiple routes of access to Middle East, Europe, Central Asia, China and South East Asia. The area also boasts of having the originator of myriad mountain ranges of the Eurasian region i.e Pamir Knot. All major mountain ranges of Asian continent i.e Himalayas ranges, Karakoram ranges, Tian Shan ranges, Kunlun ranges and Hindu Kush ranges etc emanate around Gigit-Baltistan elevating strategic importance of its location in any military geopolitical scenario. Its access to wide variety of economic objectives, strategic reach, natural resources and affluent natural beauty have attracted the super powers world over since centuries. Gilgit-Baltistan, being an area having myriad mountain passes in its territory was either occupied or was looted and trampled over by many a raider from all directions. Post last Anglo-Sikh war, as per ‘Treaty of Amritsar’ the Kashmir was ceded by East India Company to Maharaja Gulab Singh , who with the help of General Zorawar Singh expanded the territory of J&K and thus making Gilgit-Baltistan a part of J&K State. On accession of J&K in 1947, Gilgit-Baltistan became part of India. However, British conspired and it was handed over to Pakistan.
Few centuries back, when British Govt assumed the charge of India from East India Company, they had correctly realised the geostrategic potential of this area. Especially so, with respect to Russia, China and their outreach in the Middle East, in case of a war or controlling the oil, minerals and other natural resources in and around the area. In 1905, the British wanted to annex J&K to get control of this area but the bid was foiled once the news of the conspiracy of overthrowing the king of J&K was leaked. Later British tried the “Doctrine of Lapse’ which was foiled when Maharaja Hari Singh was declared the Heir Apparent to the throne. British even tried their level best to influence the ideology of the ‘maharaja to be’ by influencing his education with the hope that he will remain faithful to British and will allow the British to use this area to their advantage. However, the events at the ‘Round Table Conference’ at London in 1931 made it clear to British that Maharaja Hari Singh was not on their side and his loyalties were with the Indian leaders who were overtly friendly to USSR .Thus British will not get to use this area in event of a world war. With the birth of Yuvraj Karan Singh (The Doctrine of Lapse), British had no way but to ensure J&K is ceded to Pakistan or at least Gilgit-Baltistan is part of Pakistan. However, during WWII, USSR came on their side and no complication was felt militarily. But their planning did not end here. Their strategy for possible WWIII made them conspire to imprison the Governor of Gilgit-Baltistan Brigadier Ghansara Singh and made the Muslim troops of J&K State forces massacre the Hindu troops and assumed the control of the region. Subsequently, they handed over the area to Pakistan. Thus this ‘Heaven on Earth’ with most beautiful and simple people landed into the lap of occupationist Army from Pakistan with the help of British support on the promise of use of this area in case of WWIII.Pakistan exploited the area, attacked the demography, looted the mineral resources and suspended all civil liberties of the population with no development of area at all. In the process it also ceded Shaksgam Valley, part of this region, to China signalling the arrival of another occupation force i.e China in the region. However, in the beginning of this Century, the complete area went into the lap of China in terms of CPEC project of China’s BRI/OBOR initiative. Now people of Gilgit-Baltistan got another master for their miseries to perpetuate. The civil moment in Gilgit-Baltistan had taken shape against the excesses of Pakistan Govt in early 60s. But now with this blatant abuse of power, looting the natural resources and grotesque suspension of civil liberties, the population openly revolted in the form of various local organisations. However, with all their agitations ruthlessly crushed, there was no respite on human rights violations. No action, as promised, has been taken for the prosperity and well being of the local populace. Recent announcement of Imran Khan to hold elections on 15 Nov has come as a shock to the locals. It is a blatant attempt by Pakistan to integrate this Indian Territory into Pakistan without acknowledging the same in Pakistan Constitution. Pakistan Constitution still mentions Gilgit-Baltistan as “Disputed Area’.The locals in Gilgit-Balistan have no say in the affairs that govern them. Their voices are crushed by forces backing China- Pakistan nexus. Their wishes which range from ‘an independent country of Gilgit with portions of Xinjiang (China)’, another ‘independent Baltistan with areas of POJK’, to an ‘independent “BALOURISTAN” with area of Xinjiang, Baltistan, Gilgit and Ladhakh’. Their demand for civil rights, development and prosperity has been crucified on the altar of the world geostrategic arm of the politics. All voices speaking for the people are muffled and crushed. War of words keeps booming between Pakistan, China and India in all domestic and International fora. Thus Gilgit-Baltistan, a very important geostrategic area with tremendous natural resources and natural beauty, remains on the chess board of world politics with India, China, Pakistan and other powers of the world in a dead lock. The welfare and prosperity for the inhabitants of Gilgit-Baltistan remains elusive as ever.(Brigadier Dr Vijay Sagar Dheman is leading Defence and Strategic Expert, prolific writer, National TV News Commentator and Internationally Accredited Life Coach).
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