Gilgit-Baltistan: Is India losing the plot?
It’s an old story, yet India seems to be losing the plot. This country seems to be unable to match Chinese guile. Despite the fact that China is facing flak from Australia, the United States and the European Union on this issue, India somehow seems very sure of China’s goodwill in Kashmir. One only wonders why. All have woken up except India, which is acting as a benign Buddha. Can’t India see the daylight robbery of its territory by the China-Pakistan combine in J&K? The plot has thickened so much that it appears to have become an “irreversible forced occupation”. From postIndependence “accession of princely state (J&K) to India”, to “India-Pakistan hostile bilateral”, to the present “multilateral” owing to the joint SinoPakistani illegal occupation of Indian territory, the map of J&K certainly isn’t what India depicts it to be.
Pakistan continues with its old tricks for Kashmir is in its jugular veins. The intermittent Indian reaction, in its own traditional style, is quite predictable too — deep slumber followed by a sudden realisation to raise its voice, reiterating its stand and then lodging a strong diplomatic protest, which more often than not is ineffective. Why? Mainly because India’s own past actions, or lack of it, turned its internal affair (J&K) into an IndoPakistani bilateral issue, and later deeply entrenched a third party, China. The best or worst part in this bewildering multilateral game is the classic Chinese “deception diplomacy” — “We don’t know what happened”; “Has it really happened?” or “Even if it has happened, don’t worry, we are not in the picture”. There is no change in Beijing’s policy relating to “Kashmir” — which is a bilateral affair between India and Pakistan”. Mark Chinese diplomat Hua Chunying’s reference to the word “bilateral” and pose the counter-query: “If you know that it is a bilateral issue, why are you there? Why this fake innocence, camouflaged under the Sino-Pakistan alliance, to capture Indian soil on the sly?”
At a press briefing on May 29 (after Pakistan, through its May 21 Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018, merged it with its fifth province KhyberPakhtunkhwa), Ms Hua says: “Kashmir is a historical baggage between India and Pakistan and, therefore, shall be resolved between the two sides through dialogue and consultation.” Indeed! Why then is China now a third party in this publicly-stated “historical baggage” between India and Pakistan? Doesn’t it now become an “overloaded illegal multi-lateral baggage”?
In reality, Ms Hua’s statement clearly exposes the long-term design of China’s forced occupation of foreign territory, specially around Beijing’s “make-belief world border/order/disorder!” China is deliberately doing something extraordinarily wrong in its neighbourhood! If this isn’t a diabolical act, what is? Is it an act of multilateral coexistence for health and harmony? Indian diplomats should have repeatedly harangued and harped on this point to make China quit, or at least play lie low in an area that under no stretch of imagination belongs to China!
Did India ever get into an act of physical presence as a third party/player in the “historical baggage” between Tibet and China? Again, when Ms Hua says “we have stressed many times that CPEC is an initiative for economic cooperation, and that this is a cooperation framework which serves the purpose of economic development and people’s livelihood, and does not affect our position on J&K issue”; the message constitutes loud and jarring duplicity, akin to saying: “We are here (in J&K) to stay. Come what may. Just get away. Let us make our own way even if it’s your own territorial highway. We are on a bigger canvas and we don’t wish to get bogged down in your petty squabbling in J&K. If you cannot fight us, join us. Territory may be sacrosanct to you, but trade, money, profit and subjugation of the weak are more sanctimonious to us. We guard our territory wherein no outsider dare enter. However, we reserve the right to enter any external territory in accordance with our national calculation, wherein your problem can be reduced or resolved only by our entry and physical presence, like that of Western powers of the last century. Try, if you can, to stop us.”
My concern is that the 21st century chapter of J&K has already started to be written, not by legal and bona fide owner India but by two nations linked through an “unholy alliance” to fix India. My other regret is that successive Indian governments have not only failed to uphold their claimed territorial integrity, but also failed to uphold the Constitution, which empowers the State to protect its sovereignty. Unfortunately, India got carried away by the slogans of globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation and did irreparable damage to its indigenous industry, economy, polity, society, safety, security and sovereignty. The slogan “21st century is the century of Asia” will not take India very far because if a country can’t tackle chronic violation of its sovereignty by mala fide actions of two neighbours, there is little to go forward. China’s OBOR, BRI, CPEC is to cut and transcend all barriers of other sovereign nations, with the sole aim of expanding its own military and economy, enhance its firepower and extend its influence by dividing the polity and destroying the economy of non-Chinese states.
In this murky background, however, my congratulations to the external affairs ministry for making some effort in reiterating, and taking a public stand on its own territory without mincing words. By summoning Pakistan’s deputy high commissioner and lodging a strong protest over “GilgitBaltistan”, India rightly toughened its stand, though after a long delay. But better late than never!
However, dangers are lurking to inflict a further loss on India on its possession and occupation. The former means “control or use of real property; seizure and control of a territory by military force”. For rather too long, Gilgit-Baltistan has remained beyond India’s possession. Although Pakistan’s action falls under “possession mala fide” (possession in bad faith), as by a thief, the fact remains that a long, wrong and de facto possession can turn de jure owing to invocation of the act of limitations, despite it being a municipal law.
Today’s the mala fide SinoPakistani presence in GilgitBaltistan reminds me of the famous 1840 definition of property by French thinker Proudhon. It says “while property is not theft, a good amount of theft becomes property” — like the daylight Sino-Pakistani robbery of Gilgit-Baltistan, which forms a part of India’s J&K.
India is clearly trapped by Pakistani terror and trampled upon its own territory by Beijing, and is thus losing its sovereignty for trade with China. The moral of the story? For Chinese trade and Pakistani terror, India is helplessly losing its own territory at the expense of its sovereignty.
Dangers are lurking to inflict a further loss on India on its possession and occupation. The former means ‘control or use of real property; seizure and control of a territory by military force’. For rather too long, Gilgit-Baltistan has remained beyond India’s possession.
The writer is an alumnus of the National Defence College. The views expressed are personal.