In this Piece I will argue how Kashmir, especially POJK has been shaping and influencing India’s Foreign Policy to a large extent, but sadly has been missing from the public discourse.
Not a day passes when Kashmir is not in news, the Kashmir that is mostly in news is the Part of Kashmir under India’s control. Large Tracts of Kashmir occupied by Pakistan and some by China had been effectively blocked out by the Media and political classes for nearly 70 years, it took PM Modi mention of POK, Gilgit Baltistan and Balochistan to bring this area into national discourse. Recently PM Modi again highlighted the importance of POJK, blaming the faulty policies of Nehru in depriving India of its strategic territory.
Kashmir was always a very strategic area since ancient times, the most important part being the area of Gilgit, now occupied by Pakistan. Every Emperor secured this area to secure his Empire starting with the great Kashmiri King Lalitaditya. In Modern times Maharaja Ranjit Singh and then The Dogra Kings had this very strategic area in their Kingdoms.
The importance of Gilgit is that it touches six Nations -India, Afghanistan, Tazakistan ,China and Tibet.
It was in the centre of the ancient trade route and facilitated India becoming a ‘Sone ki Chidhiya’( golden bird). In the past, as recently pre Independence,Kayastha traders from Multan had offices in St Petersburg and many Soviet ports.
British games in Kashmir
British understood the Importance of Gilgit. Kashmir was the largest princely state ruled by the Dogra King Maharaja Hari Singh . In the round table conference in London, much to the dismay of British, Maharaja Hari Singh supported Independence of India. Kashmir was very important for the British for access to Afghanistan, Central Asia and as a counter to Soviet Union.
From 1931 onwards protests and stone pelting started in Kashmir. Sheikh Abdullah gave inciting speeches in mosques and emerged as a counter leader to Maharaja Hari Singh. Protestors came in from British ruled areas of Punjab. In 1935 , Soviet forces occupied Tazakistan. The area of Gilgit became very important for British and the Maharaja was forced to sign an agreement with the British to lease the area of a Gilgit to the British for 60 years. The British named this area Agency of Gilgit and a force called the Gilgit Scouts was raised to Administer it. Pre Independence,In 1947, Gilgit was returned to Maharaja Hari Singh. Maharaja Hari Singh signed an agreement with Major W.A. Brown to work under Maharaja Hari Singh. Documents attest to the fact that three months prior to Independence, ration supplies to Gilgit Scouts were not made inspite of repeated requests by Major Brown by the resident of Jammu and Kashmir.
Pre Partition, Lord Mountbatten kept on advising Maharaja Hari Singh to remain independent or join Pakistan. Maharaja Hari Singh signed a standstill agreement with Pakistan and India pending his decision, but post independence, in Sept 1947 Kashmir was attacked by Pakistani Army in the disguise of Kabilas or tribals. Faced with this attack, Maharaja Hari Singh acceded to India on 26th Oct 1947.
On 1sr November, the Gilgit Scouts Mutinied and on 2nd November Pakistani Flag was hoisted in Gilgit and Gilgit was occupied by Pakistan. The Indian Army, about to reach Gilgit, was stopped as Nehru had approached UN against the aggression of Pakistan into its territory and a Cease fire was announced.
Kashmir as a very important factor in India’s foreign policy
The first Foreign policy decision taken by Nehru was to approach the UN against Aggression by Pakistan. This had a very long term effect on India. A ceasefire was announced, both Pakistani Army and Indian Army were asked to retreat to pre 1 August 1947 positions in JK . The political compulsions and IOC block ensured that a resolution was passed in UN advising India to have a plebiscite in Kashmir once the conditions of ceasefire and return to pre 1 Aug 1947 positions. The plebiscite advise was pushed through based on an letter written by Lord Mountbatten to Maharaja Hari Singh to take the wishes of his citizens in mind post accession to India. This letter had no legal sanctity.
Pakistan has since then used the third recommendation as a ploy to push India into a defensive position on Kashmir and provided a speaking point to its separatists in India held Kashmir ,while blocking out POJK entirely on International forums.
Post 1962 Pakistan moved closer to China. In 1963 Pakistan signed away Shaksgam Valley In Baltistan to China via a treaty. This area was a part of India occupied by Pakistan. India Protested Feebly and failed to make it either a domestic or International issue.
Domestic vote bank considerations and coalition politics ensured that POJK remained a blind spot in Foreign policy discussions and remained a forgotten issue in Domestic politics.
In February 1994, on 22 February the Parliament of India passed a resolution saying that POJK was a part of India, but after that resolution, POJK went back to its blind spot.
Strategic Importance of Gilgit and POJK to India
- POJK was the access to Afghanistan for India. India has been forced to use a sea route via Chabhar in Iran and road route via Iran to reach Afghanistan to send it food supplies.
- Access to vitally important Central Asia is Via POJK
- At the present the only connection to Central Asia is via Air which is very poor with no direct flights from India to any Central Asian nations
- Gilgit is the region which opens up Road access to Central Asia,Russia, Middle East and Europe
- The Northern Light Infantary brigade of Pakistan occupied the heights of Kargil in 1999 through LOC via POJK
China Footprint in POJK
- CPEC runs through Indian areas occupied by Pakistan in Gilgit and Baltistan.
- China has invested about 65000 crore in POJK
- China has deployed about 11000 troops in POJK
- China has signed mining and projects of two large dams in POJK
POJK is a very Important territory of India occupied by Pakistan and strategically occupied by China too. For decades POJK has been a blind spot in India. Need is to bring it into National focus. School books should carry chapters on POJK. At every international forum India must bring up illegal occupation of its territory by Pakistan and China .
A strong Domestic Voice has to be built up within India and POJK issues have to become the prime focus in national debates. Foreign policy is often shaped by Domestic concerns,let us all lend our voice to make POJK a burning issue and bring it center stage.
Azaad Kashmir is area occupied by Pakistan in the first Kashmir war in sept-oct 1947 pre ceasefire Gilgit Baltistan was under Gilgit Scouts,handed over to Pakistan on 2 Nov 1947 Shaksgam Valley was gifted to China by Pakistan in 1963.
Republished with permission from @vinirish
Source of Article: http://vinirish.blogspot.in/2018/02/kashmir-esp-pojk-is-blind-spot-of-our.html
Sources and credit: – JKSC publications , Jammukashmirnow.org , news reports