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Misery of Gilgit-Baltistan: The part of Jammu & Kashmir occupied by Pakistan

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By Ishan Kukreti

They say, home is where the heart is.

However, for the people living in Gilgit-Baltistan region their home is being intruded by the Chinese and Pakistanis while their heart is filled with terror by the activities of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the likes.

Gilgit-Baltistan is the northern part of Pakistan occupied Kashmir famously called ‘Northern Areas’ and is an ‘administrative unit’ of Pakistan.

It is ironic that Pakistan, whose sole reason for enmity with India boils down to the question of Kashmir, has reduced the part of it which it has, it to a breeding ground for terrorism, genocide, demographic alternations and political gagging.

Historical background

Gilgit-Baltistan was part of the kingdom of Jammu and Kashmir ruled by Maharaja Hari Singh before independence. While the Maharaja was pondering over his options to join India or Pakistan, the Gilgit scouts rebelled and overthrew Ghansara Singh, the Governor administering the region on behalf of the Maharaja, on November 1, 1947.

The region remained a full-fledged independent nation for two weeks before it decided to merge into Pakistan on November 16, 1947.

However, the territory remained disputed as it was under the Dogra ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, who had signed an Instrument of Accession with India on October 26, 1947.

Maharaja Hari Singh
Maharaja Hari Singh

The region is still disputed, though Pakistan continues to administer it as an ‘autonomous entity’ through Ministry of Kashmir Affairs & Gilgit Baltistan. However the truth is that Pakistan treats the region as its breeding ground for terror.

Chinese intrusion

While the dispute over Gilgit-Baltistan was ongoing, a new player entered the scene with the help of Pakistan. Without consulting the locals and completely disregarding international laws, Pakistan gave over 2,600 square miles of Gilgit-Baltistan to China in 1963.

Trans-Karakoram Tract, as the region is called, has major strategic importance for China. It is the only available overland route for China to Gwadar Port in Baluchistan which has been leased to the Chinese government by Pakistan.

China has also undertaken major construction activity in the region, without any legal authority for the same. It is building a 7000 megawatt power hydroelectricity plant in Bunji, against the will of the local inhabitants who claim the region is not safe for such a massive project.

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Senge Hasnan Sering is the Gilgit-Baltistan born President of Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies, a Washington based think tank for the region and an expert on the region. He said in an interview, ‘The construction of mega projects in a high altitude cold desert like GB (Gilgit-Baltistan) is leading to increase in humidity level at an alarming rate, causing cloudbursts and flashfloods. Pakistan should stop the mega projects in the Himalayas and Karakoram ranges. Karakoram is the youngest mountain range in the world and cannot take all that pressure from unwarranted human intervention.’

Right now, the region is infiltrated by parties which have no legal claim over it. The local inhabitants have no say in the matter, while the economic perks of the region are being shared between China and Pakistan. The absurdity of the situation is beyond comprehension.

Self-rule for an autonomous state

Although, the region has been portrayed to be autonomous, Gilgit-Baltistan is directly administrated by Pakistan’s FANA(Federal Administrated Northern Areas).

On 29 August 2009, the Gilgit Baltistan Empowerment and Self-Governance Order, 2009, was passed by the Pakistani Cabinet which led to the creation of, an elected Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly and Gilgit-Baltistan Council.

However, the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly has been criticized by many as being an extension of Pakistani state in the region. The representation of the region in the Assembly can be gauged by the fact that it has just one member Nawaz Khan Naji, from a regional party.

The Assembly is split between members of Pakistan People’s Party, Pakistan Muslim League, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam.

Socio-economic condition in Gilgit-Baltistan

To control the area better, Pakistan, under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto revoked the State Subject Certificate requirement in the region. This led to a major demographic alteration of the region.

Unfortunately, for the people, the immigrants not only led to the reduction in employment opportunities, but also led to major armed violence and targeted Shia killings as most of the settlers were of militant Taliban stock.

‘These settlement hit the people economically as they cropped up along the Islamabad-Skardu highway, the sole economic lifeline connecting this region to the outside world. Violence along this route continues to this day, making the economic use of this highway non viable for the people,’ says Rahul Jalali, one of the few experts on the region in India.

Gilgit-Baltistan and India

‘Ethnically and linguistically, the people of Baltistan are related to the Ladakhis while the people of Gilgit, Chitral and Kashmir are Dardic, who speak related languages.’ Senge Sering says.

He, like many who have some understanding of the issue, believe that resuming ties with India through opening of Skardu-Kargil road will have a positive impact on the socioeconomic condition of the region.

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Rahul Jalali, believes that opening of the highway will provide a safe route for the people of the region to communicate with the world.

‘Opening of the Skardu-Kargil road will help both sides of the border. The economic activities, which the GB people now carry out with Islamabad through a highly dangerous highway, can be diverted to this side of the border,’ he says.

Resuming the road will also help in the region’s integration into India, which, after all is part of undivided Jammu & Kashmir and hence a territory of India as per the Instrument of Succession signed between the heads of India and the Kingdom of Jammu & Kashmir.

The combined injustice done to the people of Gilgit-Baltistan by Pakistan and China is an inhuman denial of their congenital rights and no amount of religious or geographic affinity can justify the horrible wrong that Pakistan has done to the region.

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Dalai Lama says that India and China have great potential

The spiritual leader feels that both the countries are doing compassionate works

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Dalai Lama talks about India and China
Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai says that India and China can work together. VOA

New Delhi, Nov 19

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Sunday said India and China have “great potential” and they could work together at a “practical level”.

“I think, a great potential… India and China combined are doing more compassionate work… At a practical level also. Imagine two billion people working together,” he told reporters here after inaugurating Smile Foundation’s initiative, The World of Children.

The spiritual leader, who has lived in India in self-imposed exile since 1959, said neither country had the “ability to destroy the other”.

“Whether you like it or not, you have to live side by side,” he said.

Underlining the ancient spiritual connection between the two countries, he said Chinese Buddhist Hsuan Tsang visited Nalanda (now in Bihar) and brought Nalanda Buddhist traditions to China.

“All thinkers of Nalanda are Indian. So Nalanda’s tradition is India’s tradition,” he said.

The Nalanda traditions had turned Tibetans, who were warriors, into more compassionate, peaceful and non-violent nation, he said.

“So sometimes in Delhi, teasing my Indian friend, (I say) if Tibet still remained in the previous way of life, like Mongols, Chinese invasion may not have taken place,” the Dalai Lama said in a lighter vein.

He said nobody in the world wanted violence but it was happening “because our minds are dominated by destructive emotions due to short-sightedness”.

“Nobody wants problems. Yet, many problems are our own creation.”

The Dalai Lama said the existing modern education was oriented to material values. India can take lead in improving the education system by combining modern education with ancient knowledge, he said. (IANS)

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Donald Trump Planning to meet Putin during his Asia tour

Donald Trump's first trip to Asia is the longest international tour.

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US President Donald Trump
US President Donald Trump. wikimedia commns
  • US President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he expected to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during his Asia tour.

“I think it’s expected we’ll meet with Putin, yeah. We want Putin’s help on North Korea, and we’ll be meeting with a lot of different leaders,” Donald Trump told reporters on Air Force One before landing at the Yokota Air Base in Japan, Efe reported.

Putin is scheduled to participate in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Da Nang, Vietnam, which Trump will also attend as part of his long Asia tour.

The North Korean nuclear threat is expected to dominate Donald Trump’s meetings in Japan and the next two stages of his tour, South Korea and China, where he will have a highly anticipated sit-down with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The remainder of the tour will be more focused on economic issues, with Trump scheduled to take part in the APEC meeting in Da Nang and then in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and the East Asia Summit in the Philippines.

Donald Trump’s first trip to Asia is the longest international tour by a US head of state since the one then-President George H.W. Bush embarked on in 1992.

Bush became ill at the end of that trip, famously vomiting on the Japanese prime minister’s lap at a formal dinner before fainting.(IANS)

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‘Dalai Lama is a Political Figure under the cloak of Religion, Meeting or Hosting the Dalai Lama is a major offence’ Warns China

In April this year, China had reacted violently to a visit by the Dalai Lama to Tawang, in India’s northeast border state of Arunachal Pradesh, large parts of which is claimed by Beijing.

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Dalai Lama
The 14th Dalai Lama, Wikimedia

Beijing, October 21, 2017 : As US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prepares to visit India next week, China on Saturday warned that it will be deeply offended if any foreign leader meets with or any country invites the Dalai Lama.

On the sidelines of the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, a Chinese Minister dubbed the Tibetan spiritual leader as a “political figure under the cloak of religion”.

“Any country or any organisation or anyone accepting to meet with the Dalai Lama in our view is a major offence to the sentiment of the Chinese people,” said Zhang Yijiong, Executive Vice Minister of the United Front Work Department of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC).

“Also, since they have committed to recognising China as a sole legitimate government representing China, it contravenes their attempt, because it is a serious commitment,” Zhang added.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of stoking unrest and secessionist activities in Tibet from where the spiritual leader fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising.

The Dalai Lama has urged for more autonomy for Tibet.

Beijing opposes any country or leader keeping in touch with the Dalai Lama.

“I want to make it clear that the 14th Dalai Lama, the living Buddha handed down by history is a political figure under the cloak of religion,” said Zhang.

In February this year, Tillerson had told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during his confirmation hearing that he is committed to promoting dialogue on Tibet and receiving the Dalai Lama.

Top US Democrat Nancy Pelosi had visited the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, in May, and sought to draw the world’s attention to human rights in Tibet, triggering protests by China.

China resorts to different tactics if any country hosts the Dalai Lama. For instance, Beijing blocked a major highway leading to Mongolia, crippling the economy there after Ulan Bator hosted the leader late last year.

Mongolia later apologised and promised Beijing never to invite the Dalai Lama.

“Officials, in their capacity as officials, attending all foreign-related activities represent their governments. So I hope governments around the world speak and act with caution and give full consideration to their friendship with China and their respect for China’s sovereignty,” Zhang added.

The comments from the Chinese Minister also comes days after Tillersoon described India as a partner in a strategic relationship and said the US would “never have the same relationship with China, a non-democratic society”.

According to reports, last month China refused to fund travel for visiting scholars at University of California, San Diego, apparently in retaliation for inviting the Dalai Lama to be its 2017 commencement speaker.

In April this year, China had reacted violently to a visit by the Dalai Lama to Tawang, in India’s northeast border state of Arunachal Pradesh, large parts of which is claimed by Beijing. (IANS)