Published On: Mon, Jan 18th, 2016

Kashmir and Pak-China economic interest

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By Dr. Syed Nazir Gilani –

It is reported that to allay the concerns of Beijing in regard to the fact that since a section of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor would be built through the disputed area of Gilgit-Baltistan the present Government of Pakistan is considering to grant the territory a provincial status. In that case Beijing shall have to interact directly with the sovereign authority of the Government of Pakistan and no issues would arise in respect of any day to day interaction with the administrative setup of Pakistan-administered Kashmir or Gilgit-Baltistan within the terms of UNCIP Resolutions.

One should also take into account that there is an on-going campaign from within and without Gilgit-Baltistan as well which seeks a provincial status or representation of these people in various institutions of Pakistan. Pakistan-administered Kashmir has continued in its failure to embrace these areas in a manner that it could reflect a genuine sense of territorial oneness and common interest.

India has come out with its routine claim that ‘Gilgit-Baltistan and Paksitan-administered Kashmir are integral parts of India’. The present Indian claim is an anaesthetised political reflex in regard to the territories on the Pakistani side of the cease fire line. Cease fire arrangement of January 1949 and the UNCIP Resolutions do not regard these areas or any other area in Jammu and Kashmir as integral parts of India. Even the two houses of the legislature elected from only a part of the whole territory on the Indian side (with all Indian inputs) have reported and resolved that the State has not merged with Indian union.

India has been facing a noticeable ongoing militant and political challenge to its one-sided claim in Kashmir. It has no constituency in Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. The rudiments of its temporary admission in the part of Kashmir now under its administration are subject to a free and free vote of the people under a UN mechanism. Indian claim in regard to Gilgit-Baltistan does not even have the procedural correctness as India had put up on 21 August 1957 in regard to the building of Mangla Project in Mirpur by the Government of Pakistan. (UN Document S/3869 of 22 August 1957).

India failed to convince the world community that Mangla Project in Mirpur would be a violation of UNCIP Resolutions and a violation of the Resolution of 17 January 1948, which called upon both the Governments of India and Pakistan “to refrain from making any statements and from doing or causing to be done or permitting any acts which might aggravate the situation”. The world community rubbished the Indian claim that the Dam project was being built “over the Indian territory” and was “exploitation of the resources of the territory to the disadvantage of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and for the benefit of the people of Pakistan”. (Indian letter dated 21 August 1957 addressed to the President of the Security Council – S/3869 of 22 August 1957).

It was just three years and one month after this complaint, that India on 19 September 1960 accepted Pakistan’s interest in the resources of Kashmir and signed the Indus Waters Treaty with Pakistan. In fact India accepted Pakistan’s interest in the distribution of waters (natural resource embedded in the habitat) and yielded to third party mediation. The treaty was brokered by the World Bank (then the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development). The treaty was signed in Karachi on September 19, 1960 by Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and President of Pakistan Ayub Khan.

It is a noticeable shift that India does not have the steel or nerve in 2016 to raise the issue of Gilgit-Baltistan in a procedural manner as it did in the case of Mangla Project at the UN Security Council in 1957. Indian government over the years has stumbled against all the weaknesses of her claim on Kashmir and finds itself in a corner even in the areas dominated by a huge military presence in the Valley. The principal weakness in the Indian claim is that it does not carry the free will and consent of the people. There are three administrations at Srinagar, Muzaffarabad, Gilgit and a fourth strong Kashmiri diaspora. India has none or very little constituency in these areas. Therefore, one has to say that Indian claim has no merit and stands rubbished.

Granting a provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan, however, has generated a genuine and a self-serving interest in Kashmiri circles and in Pakistan-administered Kashmir. It is a fact that Kashmiri leaders of all shades on either side of cease fire line or PaK have never taken any interest to reach out to these areas and the people living there. Local governments and the politicians have abandoned the people of GB after handing over temporarily the administration of these areas to Government of Pakistan on 28 April 1949. So much so that the government and Muslim Conference as signatories to the Karachi Agreement of 28 April 1949, failed to stir into action when the agreement lapsed on the enforcement of “Azad Jammu and Kashmir Government Act, 1970 subsequently substituted by the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Interim Constitution Act, 1974”.

It is time that we allow the local governments and Kashmiri leaders from either side of cease fire line (and diaspora) the benefit of “it is late than never” and listen to them in accordance with the jurisprudence of Kashmir case. The building of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor through the disputed area of Gilgit-Baltistan does not involve any issues as unnecessarily envisaged by China or Government of Pakistan. Indus-Water Treaty and Mangla Project in Mirpur are examples on the side of Pakistan and China (also people of Kashmir) that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor could be built without hurting the status of Kashmir dispute.

Syed Ali Geelani, Yasin Malik, PaK Government, leaders in PaK and diaspora have expressed their disapproval of any step towards granting GB a provincial status in Pakistan. Without engaging into the merits and demerits of these political opinions, it is imperative that Government of Pakistan does not fall victim to any unreliable advice from any part, in particular GB as well. For example Hafiz Hafeez Ur Rehman’s (chief minister’s) statement made during a TV discussion with GEO that Gilgit-Baltistan are not part of Jammu and Kashmir but are a part of Kashmir dispute is incorrect.

His statement does not reconcile with Article 1 of the Constitution of Pakistan which defines the territories of the Republic and article 257 which addresses the future of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. Maharaja of Kashmir had leased out Gilgit to British Government of India through a lease-deed executed on March 26, 1935. The administration of these areas was carried out by the British Government according to the lease deed. However on August 1, 1947 these areas were restored to the State Government of Kashmir and Brigadier Ghansara Singh of the State army was appointed as the administrator. He was overthrown and arrested by the locals of the area during the war of liberation in 1947. Late Col. Hassan Khan played the lead role.

It was on April 28, 1949 that an agreement was entered into between the Government of Pakistan, Pakistan-administered Kashmir and All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference, whereby certain functions were divided and the administrative control of Northern Areas was entrusted to the Government of Pakistan. The said agreement lapsed on the enforcement of “Azad Jammu and Kashmir Government Act, 1970 subsequently substituted by the Azad Jammu and Kashmir Interim Constitution Act, 1974”.

Defending the building of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor through the disputed area of Gilgit-Baltistan does not savage the jurisprudence of Kashmir case. It would be counter-productive and enrage the people of common sense, if we start stipulating in 2016 that GB is not a part of the State of Jammu and Kashmir and its citizens are not State Subjects according to the State Subject Notification of 20 April 1927. The argument that GB is not part of the State is a serious mistake. It would be exploited by India by stirring up a serious distraction amongst the diaspora and in other three parts of Kashmir.

Many of us who have devoted their entire lives in the defence of the jurisprudence of Kashmir case and the jurisprudence of UNCIP Resolutions shall have no choice but to add to the voice of all those who fall under the category of a consideration under the principle ‘although late but never’ on the subject.

Passing of a Pak-China economic interest through a part of Jammu and Kashmir is a gainful plus for the people of the State in present day net-working among nations. It could assure an enduring Chinese interest and support to Kashmir case at the UN or at any other forum. The mess of irritants would not have been there, if our leaders had not left it that late. Let us agree upon, “better late than never”.

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