Gilgit-Baltistan. Sectarian violence raised its head once again viciously in April when a bus load of Shi'a pilgrims was attacked. This caused a shutdown in Kargil, once again pointing out the deep linkages between the people of this area. It is those linkages that beckon a more informed Indian policy on Gilgit-Baltistan. As the judicious claimant the onus is on India to renew its links with the area and its people. Anything that improves their lives is a better policy than not having one at all. China has quietly stepped into the vacuum that currently exists, raising the stakes for India. If India wants to be a global player it should first begin to play the game in its neighbourhood”
DSA July 2012 issue, “Gilgit-Baltistan:
The Siachen Imbroglio
Lt Gen Arvind Sharma PVSM, AVSM, VSM (retd)
“What are the compulsions for vacating Siachen? Some myths that are bandied about by Pakistan and by proponents of vacating the glaciers are that India is the aggressor and so it must vacate, heavy casualties are being caused to troops by altitude and extreme climate, environmental degradation being caused by continued troop deployments, heavy financial burden on respective countries to maintain and sustain these deployments and the effect on morale of troops deployed in such inhospitable terrain. We have not usurped any land but only occupied our own territory. Secondly, troops did suffer casualties due to climatic conditions and altitude initially, but with better equipment and improved living conditions, physical casualties are within manageable limits and no longer a matter of serious concern; thirdly, national security cannot be weighed only in fiscal terms, besides our economy is resilient to sustain this effort; as regards morale, a reality check will reveal that there is a waiting list of volunteers who wish to serve in Siachen, across various arms and services of the IA ”.
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar PVSM, AVSM, ADC (retd)
“In 1963, Pakistan ceded more than five thousand square kilometres of territory in the Karakoram region of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). This accommodated the construction of the Karakoram Highway that links China’s Xinjiang region through the Khunjerab Pass with Pakistan’s Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa regions. Started in 1959 and completed in 1979, the 1,300 km highway connects Kashgar with Islamabad and traverses some of the world’s most hostile terrain. This energy channel serves to provide an efficient alternative to the exposed and vulnerable sea passage through the Malacca / Sunda / Lombok Straits. At the southern end of the Karakoram corridor is Gwadar Port on the Arabian Sea. Pakistan has urged China to use and take maximum benefits from the Gwadar Port. For China, it is this factor of securing the ‘right of passage’ in this troubled region that is of criticalconsequence. The Port of Gwadar with all its geostrategic features provides to its nascent ‘blue water’ navy a reach and control capability that would assure security of its energy lines and sanctuary to its raw materials emanating from Africa. It is towards this end that Chinese strategic policy is directed. A former head of India’s Strategic Forces Command takes a close look at China’s Malacca Bypass strategy"
Red Dragon in India’s North-West
Lt Gen Kamal Davar PVSM, AVSM (retd)
“South Asia scholar Selig Harrison was the first to break the news in August 2010 in The New York Times that an estimated 7,000-11,000 Chinese People’s Liberation Army soldiers were deployed in Gilgit-Baltistan in the guise of engineering personnel and civil labour. Pakistan, of course, unconvincingly stated that China had sent “a humanitarian team” to Gilgit-Baltistan to assist in flood relief operations! Harrison succinctly termed this development as the unfolding of a “quiet geopolitical crisis, India will do well to monitor the ever enlarging Chinese footprint in its north-west regions for now India will have to manage another front on its troubledperipheries with both China and Pakistan in unholy concert. As we delve deeper into the happenings of the last two years in Gilgit-Baltistan, it will be amply clear to all that in keeping with its long-term objectives, China’s growing assertiveness in South Asia is not only manifesting itself in Afghanistan, awaiting the exit of US troops by 2014, but right across India’s
north-west periphery in the area of Gilgit-Baltistan and the rest of PoK as also Balochistan which is up in arms against its own government. Since the last couple of years, the Chinese centre of gravity in land operations has been increasingly getting oriented towards Jammu and Kashmir and this is the sector where China and Pakistan could together plan to attack India if the need for them ever arises".
Strategic Importance of Gilgit-Baltistan Region
Maj Gen Afsir Karim AVSM (retd)
“The deployment of combat troops and the latest developments in this area point towards a long term joint Pakistan-China plan for this region that could translate into a joint offensive without warning. A rail link is under construction from Tibet to link up with the Pakistan rail network leading to Gwadar Port. Permanent military barracks have been constructed in this region for stationing of Chinese troops. In the situation, we can no longer watch the joint Pakistani designs on our territory and remain indifferent to deployment of Chinese troops in Gilgit-Baltistan. It is essential that India evolves a policy process that provides it a viable solution for safeguarding its national interests in view of the aggressive Chinese-Pakistani postures in this region”.
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