Chinese troops in Gilgit-Baltistan
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
NEW YORK: Well known
South Asia specialist and writer Selig Harrison, who has a long
been a critic of Pak policy, has made a startling disclosure in
his latest article in the New York Times, which has almost gone
unnoticed in Pakistan. He says Pakistan has decided to hand over
Gilgit-Baltistan to China and up to 10,000 troops of the Chinese
People's Liberation Army have moved into the area.
The article, published on Aug 26 in the opinion pages of the NYT,
says a quiet geopolitical crisis is unfolding in the Himalayan
borderlands of northern Pakistan, where Islamabad is handing
over de facto control of the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region
in the northwest corner of disputed Kashmir to China.
Selig Harrison, who is director of the Asia Programme at the
Center for International Policy and a former South Asia bureau
chief of The Washington Post, writes under the title China's
Discreet Hold on Pakistan's Northern Borderlands: "While the
world focuses on the flood-ravaged Indus River valley, a quiet
geopolitical crisis is unfolding in the Himalayan borderlands of
northern Pakistan, where Islamabad is handing over de facto
control of the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region in the
northwest corner of disputed Kashmir to China.
"The entire Pakistan-occupied western portion of Kashmir
stretching from Gilgit in the north to Azad (Free) Kashmir in
the south is closed to the world, in contrast to the media
access that India permits in the eastern part, where it is
combating a Pakistan-backed insurgency. But reports from a
variety of foreign intelligence sources, Pakistani journalists
and Pakistani human rights workers reveal two important new
developments in Gilgit-Baltistan: a simmering rebellion against
Pakistani rule and the influx of an estimated 7,000 to 11,000
soldiers of the People's Liberation Army.
"China wants a grip on the region to assure unfettered road and
rail access to the Gulf through Pakistan. It takes 16 to 25 days
for Chinese oil tankers to reach the Gulf. When high-speed rail
and road links through Gilgit and Baltistan are completed, China
will be able to transport cargo from Eastern China to the new
Chinese-built Pakistani naval bases at Gwadar, Pasni and Ormara,
just east of the Gulf, within 48 hours.
"Many of the P.L.A. soldiers entering Gilgit-Baltistan are
expected to work on the railroad. Some are extending the
Karakoram Highway, built to link China's Sinkiang Province with
Pakistan. Others are working on dams, expressways and other
Mystery surrounds the construction of 22 tunnels in secret
locations where Pakistanis are barred. Tunnels would be
necessary for a projected gas pipeline from Iran to China that
would cross the Himalayas through Gilgit. But they could also be
used for missile storage sites.
"Until recently, the P.L.A. construction crews lived in
temporary encampments and went home after completing their
assignments. Now they are building big residential enclaves
clearly designed for a long-term presence.
What is happening in the region matters to Washington for two
reasons. Coupled with its support for the Taliban, Islamabad's
collusion in facilitating China's access to the Gulf makes clear
that Pakistan is not a US ally. Equally important, the nascent
revolt in the Gilgit-Baltistan region is a reminder that
Kashmiri demands for autonomy on both sides of the ceasefire
line would have to be addressed in a settlement.
"Media attention has exposed the repression of the insurgency in
the Indian-ruled Kashmir Valley. But if reporters could get into
the Gilgit-Baltistan region and Azad Kashmir, they would find
widespread, brutally suppressed local movements for democratic
rights and regional autonomy.
"When the British partitioned South Asia in 1947, the Maharajah
who ruled Kashmir, including Gilgit and Baltistan, acceded to
India. This set off intermittent conflict that ended with Indian
control of the Kashmir Valley, the establishment of
Pakistan-sponsored Free Kashmir in western Kashmir, and
Pakistan's occupation of Gilgit and Baltistan, where Sunni
Jihadi groups allied with the Pakistan Army have systematically
terrorized the local Shiite Muslims.
"Gilgit and Baltistan are in effect under military rule.
Democratic activists there want a legislature and other
institutions without restrictions like the ones imposed on Free
Kashmir, where the elected legislature controls only 4 out of 56
subjects covered in the state constitution. The rest are under
the jurisdiction of Kashmir Council appointed by the president
"India gives more power to the state government in Srinagar;
elections there are widely regarded as fair, and open discussion
of demands for autonomy is permitted. But the Pakistan-abetted
insurgency in the Kashmir Valley has added to tensions between
Indian occupation forces and an assertive population seeking
greater local autonomy.
The United States is uniquely situated to play a moderating role
in Kashmir, given its growing economic and military ties with
India and Pakistan's aid dependence on Washington. Such a role
should be limited to quiet diplomacy. Washington should press
New Delhi to resume autonomy negotiations with Kashmiri
separatists. Success would put pressure on Islamabad for
comparable concessions in Free Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. In
Pakistan, Washington should focus on getting Islamabad to stop
aiding the insurgency in the Kashmir Valley and to give New
Delhi a formal commitment that it will not annex Gilgit and
"Precisely because the Gilgit-Baltistan region is so important
to China, the United States, India and Pakistan should work
together to make sure that it is not overwhelmed, like Tibet, by
the Chinese behemoth." ,.
--The News, 31 Aug 10.
Sensation sells newspapers even if fabricated, so Selig
All are aware, Pakistan is a regional power that will not take
the dictates of any other country. As for selig’s assertion that
kashmiri’s in Indian occupied Kashmir are free whilst in Azad
Kashmir they are oppressed, well one way to settle that’ have a
referendum and the outcome will tell the reality.
Also remember the current slogan in Indian occupied Kashmir,
‘bhooka,nanga Hindustan-jaan sey pyaara Pakistan ( poor, naked
India-dearer than life our Pakistan)-that should say it all.
China is a rising super power and it does not need bits of
territory to prove its might-all countries including India are
in subservience to it-and that is the reality
-- K.Ahmad, Dubai, 07 Sept 10
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