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The forgotten fact of China-Occupied Kashmir

Context:

On November 1, observed every year in Gilgit-Baltistan as “Independence Day”, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that his government would give the region “provisional provincial status”.

Relevance:

GS Paper 3: Border Areas (security challenges and management thereof); Security forces & agencies (mandate); Role of External State & Non-State actors in creating internal security challenges

Mains Questions

  1. Cross-border movement of insurgents is only one of the several security challenges facing the policing of the border in North-West India. Examine the various challenges currently emanating across the India-Pakistan border. Also, discuss the steps to counter the challenges. 15 marks
  2. The china Pakistan Economic Corridor passes through the Gilgit Baltistan region which undermines India’s territorial claim over Gilgit Baltistan region and PoK. Elaborate. 15 marks

Dimensions of the article

  • Geographical location of Gilgit-Baltistan region.
  • Historical background of Gilgit-Baltistan region.
  • Strategic importance of Gilgit-Baltistan
  • Challenges along the border with china and Pakistan
  • India’s initiatives to improve border management
  • Way forward

Geographical location of Gilgit-Baltistan Region

Gilgit-Baltistan borders Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to the west, a small portion of the Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan to the north, China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region to the northeast, the Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir to the southeast, and the Pakistani-administered state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir to the south.

The region is home to some of the world’s highest mountain ranges. The main ranges are the Karakoram and the western Himalayas. The Pamir Mountains are to the north, and the Hindu Kush lies to the west. Amongst the highest mountains are K2 (Mount Godwin-Austen) and Nanga Parbat, the latter being one of the most feared mountains in the world.

Three of the world’s longest glaciers outside the polar regions are found in Gilgit-Baltistan: the Biafo Glacier, the Baltoro Glacier, and the Batura Glacier.

See the source image

Historical Background

The Soviet-British Great Game territory: The British wanted to protect their border from The Soviet’s invasion so they took Gilgit as a leased from Hari Singh in 1935. The British returned it in August 1947.

On November 1 1947, after J&K ruler Hari Singh had signed the Instrument of Accession with India, and the Indian Army had landed in the Valley to drive out tribal invaders from Pakistan, there was a rebellion against Hari Singh in Gilgit.

Pakistan did not accept Gilgit-Baltistan’s accession although it took administrative control of the territory. After India went to the UN and a series of resolutions were passed in the Security Council on the situation in Kashmir, Pakistan believed that neither Gilgit-Baltistan nor PoK should be annexed to Pakistan, as this could undermine the international case for a plebiscite in Kashmir.

Strategic importance of Gilgit-Baltistan

Gilgit-Baltistan is the northernmost territory administered by Pakistan, providing the country’s only territorial frontier, and thus a land route, with China, where it meets the Xinjiang Autonomous Region. The China Pakistan Economic Corridor has made the region vital for both countries. In a recent analysis by Andrew Small, this ambitious project is seen to have been going slow for a combination of reasons. But given the strategic interests of both countries, CPEC will continue.

China occupies 5,180 square kilometres in the Shaksgam Valley in addition to approximately 38,000 square kilometres in Aksai Chin. China and Pakistan have colluded to obfuscate these facts, even as they brazenly promote the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which runs through parts of Indian territory under their respective occupation.

Therefore, this region is strategically very important to India, moreover this region belongs to India as Instruments of accession.

Challenges along the border with china

  • Border dispute at Aksai Chin, Arunachal Pradesh, Doklam etc. with sporadic aggression.
  • Large scale smuggling of Chinese electronic and other consumer goods take place through these border points even after designated areas for border trade.
  • Inadequate infrastructure due to difficult terrain. However, China has undertaken a large-scale effort to upgrade air, roads and rail infrastructure, as well as surveillance capabilities near to the border.
  • Multiple forces along Indian border (for e.g.-ITBP, Assam rifles, Special frontier force) as opposed to single PLA commander on Chinese side.
  • Water-sharing issue as China is building dams on its side reducing water flows on our side.

Challenges along the border with Pakistan

  • Border dispute at Sir Creek and Kashmir.
  • River water sharing issue at Indus river.
  • Infiltration and Cross-border terrorism targeted to destabilise India. Recently BSF detected a fifth (since 2012) cross border tunnel in the forest area of Jammu.
  • Diverse terrain including desert, marshes, snow-capped mountain and plains makes border guarding difficult. · Time & cost overruns in infrastructure projects due to unforeseen circumstances& natural calamities.
  • Other issues include drug smuggling, fake currency, arms trafficking.

India’s initiatives to improve border management

  • Creating infrastructure: India is also constructing some critical bridges to cut down time for troop movement such as Dhola-Sadiya bridge.
  • India has joined hands with Japan to aggressively develop infrastructure projects in North east to contain China.
  • Army infrastructure projects within 100Km of LAC have been exempted from forest clearance.
  • To expedite border road construction, Ministry of Defence has decided to delegate administrative and financial powers to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO)
  • MHA sanctioned the implementation of Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) to establish an integrated security system at borders providing all-round security even in adverse climatic conditions.
  • The centre has decided to deploy Indian special forces unit National Security Guard (NSG) commandos in J&K to fortify counter terror operations by training J&K police and other paramilitary forces in room intervention, anti-terror skills, overseeing anti-hijack operations etc.

Way forward

  • Dispute resolution– Government should resolve pending border disputes with the neighbouring countries, as they later become matters of national-security threat.
  • No diversion of security forces– The border-guarding force should not be distracted from its principal task and deployed for other internal security duties. For e.g.-ITBP, a force specifically trained for India China border should not be used in the Naxalite-infested areas.
  • Involvement of army – It is felt that the responsibility for unsettled and disputed borders, such as the LoC in J&K and the LAC on the Indo-Tibetan border, should be that of the Indian Army while the BSF should be responsible for all settled borders.
  • Follow one-force-one-border principle to effectively manage borders as divided responsibilities never result in effective control.
  • Developing Infrastructure-accelerated development of infrastructure along the border, especially to wean the border population from illegal activities.
  • Use of advanced technology – The advances in surveillance technology, particularly satellite and aerial imagery, can help to maintain a constant vigil along the LAC and make it possible to reduce physical deployment.
  • Up-gradation of intelligence network and co-ordination with sister agencies, conduct of special operations along the border.
  • Raising the issues of infiltration from across the border during various meeting with counterpart countries.
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September 2022
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