By K.N. Pandita
State Finance Minister says Chinese penetration in Gilgit-Baltistan is New Delhi’s concern and he would not therefore comment on it. This is the official line of the Omar Abdullah-led government. Strangely, we do not know whether this is also the reaction of its major ally Congress. We are aware of New Delhi’s reaction to the rumoured lease of Gilgit-Baltistan region by Pakistan to China for 30 years. It is an issue of national concern and India has already conveyed to Pakistan its displeasure and indicated that it is a security concern with the government of India. The entire nation knows New Delhi’s stand. But the Finance Minister speaking on behalf of the State Government feigns ignorance about it and dismisses a matter of great national concern in a cursory manner not expected of a responsible minister.
Is not Gillgit-Baltistan legally part of the original State of Jammu and Kashmir? Have not Pakistan and China both grabbed big chunks of territory in Aksai Chin which actually is the territory of the original State of Jammu and Kashmir. It is highly disturbing to note that the State government and the coalition parties did not react forcefully to the issue of rumoured leasing of the area to Pakistan when the issue was raised in the current session of the Assembly. Why should the BJP, NPP and JKSM be the only political parties of the State whose elected representatives demand recovery of the Pok and Gilgit-Baltistan in the background of Parliament’s unanimous resolution of 1994? State MPs representing both State Congress and NC parties were part of that unanimous resolution. Why did not they raise their voice in unison with others mentioned above in demand for recovery of the areas under illegal occupation of Pakistan? What does NC mean by passing the buck to New Delhi?
Furthermore, we have also noted that separatists’ chapters in the valley have not reacted to the rumour making rounds in Kashmir political circles. They claim their movement is for the entire original State of Jammu and Kashmir. By not reacting to Pakistan leasing out the sensitive area to a country hostile to India means they are reconciled to China making her physical presence very eloquent in the closest proximity of Pakistan. This naturally heightens India’s security concerns in the region. The separatists, including the Hurriyat, therefore, give ample proof of contradiction inherent in their ideology of confrontation with the Indian state.
The style in which the debate on the issue was conducted in the legislative assembly gives the unfortunate impression that the government and the ruling parties are not much disturbed on security concerns in the northern border. It is not lack of sensitivity but actually suspension of disbelief, and as such a very dangerous and perhaps a disastrous trend in Kashmir politics. We cannot but feel unhappy on the role of PDP as well whose MLA has feigned to be supporting the opposition on the issue of lease but actually had other reasons for pillorying the government. The attitude of valley MLAs to a highly sensitive issue of territorial integrity of the county equally important to the State and to the nation has to be noted with great concern and disappointment. The message which Finance Minster’s comment conveyed to the helmsmen across the LoC and in Muzaffarabad and elsewhere in PoK is that we (J&K Government) no more care what will shape in Gilgit-Baltistan region so close to us and so much integral to our struggle. This divisive attitude has to be changed and sensitivity of our territorial integrity has to be sharpened. China’s physical presence in the region for three decades, if the rumour is to be given credit, is a major change in the security strategy of the region and also in other spheres of activity. China has been asking for a big military base in North Waziristan: she has made considerable investment in the extraction of copper ore from the rich copper fields in Afghanistan. China is starved for energy resources and has an eye on huge gas reserves in Afghanistan and the adjoining Turkmenistan. Chinese military presence in the region supplemented by effective connectivity network will undoubtedly have bearing on strategic planning of the region for big powers like the US, Russia and effective neighbours like Iran, Turkey, Pakistan and India.
In final analysis, the State government is advised not to adopt ostrich-like behaviour in dealing with a crucial issue of the presence of a foreign country’s contingent force on a territory that she claims to be part of Jammu and Kashmir.