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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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Here’s Why China is Predictable and Not Inscrutable

India could’ve easily predicted the Chinese coming on 5 August 2019

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The Chinese actions are far away from being Inscrutable. Pixabay

As the tensions rise between India and China along the borders in Ladakh, Shekhar Gupta in his article for The Print invokes an American political satirist P.J. O’Rourke.

Talking about his works Shekhar points out that in his ‘A Brief History of Man’, P.J. O’Rourke writes a small sentence “Meanwhile, in China, there were the Chinese.”. This sentence is relevant to us today.

Shekhar Gupta believes that the sentence conveys us a sense of resignation about the “inscrutable” Chinese. This thought happens to be familiar thought in the West.

“But we don’t live in the West. We’ve lived next door to China for as long as first civilisations grew.”, writes Shekhar Gupta

Let’s look at the history of Indian interactions with China since independance. What is inscrutable about it? Talking about the military assault across two fronts in 1962, it may have been a surprise to our leaders back then, but that is only because they were delusional.

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Chinese actions in respect to India are predictable now. Pixabay

From Chinese ultimatum to India to “return their stolen yaks and sheep” in 1965, to their appearance along the Ladakh frontier this year, China happens to be completely predictable and far from inscrutable. Especially keeping in mind Chinese actions in respect to India.

The push at Nathu La (Sikkim) in 1967 was probably to check out the resolve from India. Which they saw at its weakest — having fought two recent wars (1962 and 1965), famines, ship-to-mouth existence, political instability and a diminished Indira Gandhi. . The Indian response was a lesson they quickly learnt. What did the Chinese do after that? They have kept the peace for 53 years. Will you call that response evidence of Chinese inscrutability? They probed us, got a rude push-back, and decided to wait and stir the pot in different ways, at different times, says Shekhar Gupta in his artcile for The Print.

The Chinese kept the hold of what they wanted in 1962. According to Shekhar the truth is, they had it in their possession almost fully, barring small, tactically important slivers in Ladakh. They asserted their ownership and let their larger claim, Arunachal Pradesh, fully in Indian control, go militarily uncontested.

The Chinese never gave up claim on it. In 1986-87, they again checked us out at Wangdung-Sumdorong Chu (Arunachal), when they saw Rajiv Gandhi take India’s defence budget to a 4 per cent-plus of GDP. And once more, the response was firm and the Chinese backed off. The lesson we learnt according to Shekhar Gupta is that the Chinese won’t open fire randomly for the sake of it, Or when they are absolutely sure of an easy victory so they could be seen like ‘teaching an upstart a lesson’ as they did in 1962. Predictable.

Each and every action and response of China fits a pattern- Deliver a message, add leverage, and return, according to Shekhar Gupta.

India, China and Pakistan shared this unusual ‘triangulation’ in which China was using Pakistan to keep India preoccupied, said Former Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh during his tenure.

His idea was to break this ‘triangulation’ by seeking peace with Pakistan. He thought, that a country as big and powerful as China, would see less of an incentive for peace with India than Pakistan.

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Former Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s idea was to break this ‘triangulation’ by seeking peace with Pakistan. Wikimedia Commons

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Shekhar Gupta believes that today, that option is not so available, as hostility with Pakistan is central to the Modi-BJP politics. They’d rather make peace with China than Pakistan. That is why the lavish welcomes and frequent meetings with the Chinese leaders. The objective, still, is escaping that triangle.

Another instance of Vajpayee explaining the Chinese negotiating style. “Dekhiye, aap aur hum baithe hain aur vaarta kar rahe hain (see, you and I are sitting and negotiating),” he said. If two people require something and the first person asks to let go of something, the other will say no. Then the first person again asks for something little less, then again the other person might say no. But ultimately the second person will relent and let go of some. The Chinese would never do that.

Both these leaders underlined that the Chinese are consistent, and predictable. And that is why we should not be shoched or surprised by what they have unveiled across Ladakh. We should have anticipated it on 5 August last year when we made the big changes in Jammu & Kashmir. This Chinese move, like all others in 60 years, was fully predictable. Even the timing, says Shekhar Gupta in his article for The Print.

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Apple Manages to Open Nearly Half of its Retail Stores Worldwide

Apple has reopened nearly 256 retail stores globally

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Nearly half of Apple retail stores are now open globally. Pixabay

Apple has managed to reopen nearly 256 retail stores out of more than 500 worldwide, as it aims to safely restart operations.

Apple closed all its retail stores outside Greater China in March as COVID-19 pandemic spread. All the Apple stores in Greater China are now open.

“In China, and later around the world, we were one of the first companies to close our stores. In Greater China, we saw the importance of swift action — and the critical importance of social distance — to slow the virus’ spread,” according to Apple’s head of retail Deidre O’Brien.

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Apple is conducting enhanced deep cleanings at their stores to prevent the spread of Coronavirus. Pixabay

“As time has gone on, we’ve continued to refine and expand our in-store health and safety measures, which have proven so effective in places like Greater China, where our stores have been safely open for months,” he added.

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Apple is taking some additional steps in most places. Throughout the day, Apple is conducting enhanced deep cleanings that place special emphasis on all surfaces, display products, and highly trafficked areas.

“Face coverings will be required for all of our teams and customers, and we will provide them to customers who don’t bring their own. Temperature checks will be conducted at the door, and posted health questions will screen for those with symptoms — like cough or fever — or who have had recent exposure to someone infected with COVID-19,” O’Brien elaborated. (IANS)

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COVID ‘Just the Tip of The Iceberg’ Warns Virologist known as ‘Bat Woman’

Top Chinese virologist, has warned that new viruses being discovered are "actually just the tip of the iceberg"

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COVID is only the beginning says virologist. Pixabay

A top virologist from China, famous for her work on researching coronavirus in bats, has warned that new viruses being discovered are “actually just the tip of the iceberg”. In an interview on Chinese state television, Shi Zhengli, known as the ‘Bat Woman’ for her research about bats and the viruses associated with them, also called for greater international cooperation in the fight against epidemics such as Covid-19.

Zhengli, the Deputy Director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, said research undertaken in viruses needs governments and scientists to be transparent with their findings, and cooperative, reports dailymail.co.uk.

She also said that it is ‘very regrettable’ when science is politicised. Speaking to Chinese state television CCTN, Zhengli said: “The unknown viruses that we have discovered are actually just the tip of the iceberg. If we want to prevent human beings from suffering from the next infectious disease outbreak, we must go in advance to learn of these unknown viruses carried by wild animals in nature and give early warnings,” Zhengli was quoted as saying to CCTN.

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COVID and other viruses need more research says an expert. Pixabay

“If we don’t study them, there will possibly be another outbreak,” she added.

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Her interview comes after, both US President Donald Trump and his Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have suggested that the Covid-19 originated in a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the pandemic erupted last December last month. Earlier, Zhengli had also said that even after the world finds a way to combat the virus responsible for Covid-19, it should prepare for more outbreaks caused by bat-borne coronaviruses. (IANS)