March 2016 News

Gilgit-Baltistan: The New Hot Spot

30 March 2016
Rising Kashmir
Zaid Majeed Mughal

Srinagar: The Chinese initiative to strengthen its presence in south Asia ensnares the 21st century silk route project of which China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) through Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) is an extension. The corridor forms a vital region to achieve the geopolitical and economic goals of The People's Republic of China. China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a USD 46 billion project which intends to connect China's Xinjiang province to Pakistan at Gwadar. The corridor also involves a link up via a vast network of roads and railways. The project also incorporates a network of oil and gas pipelines to secure the energy needs of the Chinese dragon. Gilgit-Baltistan borders Pakistan Administered Kashmir to the south, the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to the west, the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan to the north, Xinjiang province of China to the east and northeast and Jammu Kashmir to the southeast. The GB region, along with with PaK, Aksai Chin, Shakshagam Valley of China and Jammu Kashmir is disputed between India, China and Pakistan. GB territory originally was a part of former princely state of Jammu Kashmir, presently under the control of Pakistan and is claimed by both India as well as Pakistan. GB despite being resource rich area for power projects has failed to find recognition under the aegis of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project. This clearly shows the intent of China and Pakistan to exploit the natural resources and discrimination of the region which adds to the misery of the local population who are already longing for the basic human rights and political liberties. GB being the gateway to CPEC, should have been a major beneficiary of the project. GB government, which dances to the tunes of Government of Pakistan, is happy and celebrating the construction of a road. It is not even ready to accept the fact that the region is the most underdeveloped of all regions in every sector like education, health, and tourism. It is marginalised and it is faced with huge unemployment. Moreover, the CPEC project will render more than 10,000 people of Gilgit-Baltistan unemployed once the existing dry port is relocated from Sostin GB to Havelian in Hazara division of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. People of the region see the multi-million dollar project as a design by Pakistan and China to exploit their resources that will in no way contribute in the development of the trodden region. There have been a number of protests by the local population and the Balti diaspora abroad as well. The corridor is more likely to sow seeds of unrest and discord. This Chinese ambitious project brings their defence lines not just closer to India but also on the land that is part of Jammu Kashmir. It is high time this Chinese project is subjected to international scrutiny and Pakistan's complicity is examined. Not only will the project have a direct impact on the GB territory but also the regional strategic dynamics will be impacted negatively. The author is pursuing Masters in National Security Studies at the Central University of Jammu and can be mailed at mughalzaid@gmail.com

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