Frequently, we find ourselves grappling with profound questions: Could we possibly regain the portion of Kashmir that was violently occupied by Pakistan in 1947? If so, how would India establish and sustain peace in that region? What course of action might Pakistan pursue in response? Will the global community rally behind us? Is the reclamation of PoK a realistic endeavor? To unearth the answers to these inquiries, a journey into the history of PoK is imperative – and this article is precisely tailored to provide you with the insights you seek.
Understanding the Complex Geography of PoK
Let’s dive into the topic but before I move forward let’s understand some facts associated with PoK. PoK is a part of Jammu and Kashmir, and it constitutes around 30% of the total land of the region, which amounts to approximately 2.22 lakh square meters. Pakistan occupies 30% of the west, while in the east, about 10% of the land is under Chinese control, leaving India with 60% of Jammu and Kashmir.
Pakistan Occupied Kashmir is an autonomous territory which is been divided by Pakistan into two parts. The first one is Pakistan Controlled Kashmir and the Second one is Gilgit, Bal. Both are extensions of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan’s control of Kashmir is divided into 10 districts wherein Muzzafrabad is the capital of this region. Comparatively, Gilgit, Baltistan is 5 times bigger than Pakistan Controlled Kashmir. Gilgit Baltistan is divided into 10 districts and 3 administrative divisions. This region has more than 50, 7000mts and above mountain peaks. It also has the world’s 3 longest glaciers found outside polar regions.
The Crucial Events of 1947: The Annexation of Jammu and Kashmir to India
In the year 1947, during the time of partition, when India was going through a big change, Jammu and Kashmir like many other provinces was in turbulence. When the British Government, abandoned its ‘paramountcy policy’ of the princely states, the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir was left with three choices: to join India, to join Pakistan, or to remain independent.
However, making this decision was not easy for The Maharaja and according to some historians he also imposed certain tax policies on his People. People went up in arms against the Maharaja. As he tried to suppress the uprising brutally, people in Poonch took over almost the whole district and a provisional government was established on October 3rd 1947 in Rawalpindi.
After a few days on October 21st, the Pashtun Tribe from North West Frontier province entered Jammu and Kashmir intending to annex the region to Pakistan. They successfully captured Muzaffarabad and Baramullah, and the situation became tense.
Three days later, on October 24th, Sardar Vallabbhai Patel, the Home Minister of India at that time, received a crucial phone call from Maharaja Hari Singh for help. Patel firmly stated that he would only offer assistance if the Maharaja signed the “Instrument of Accession.” Two days later, on October 26th, Maharaja Hari Singh took the significant step of signing the “Instrument of Accession,” officially joining Jammu and Kashmir to India. As a result, India swiftly sent its troops to Srinagar, and this decision led to a war with Pakistan. The Indian Army displayed remarkable strength, pushing back the Pakistani forces.
Cascading Effects of Kashmir’s Integration into India: Unveiling the Aftermath
On January 1st, 1948, our first Prime Jawaharlal Nehru, brought the Jammu and Kashmir Issue before the United Nations. In April 1948, the UN passed Resolution 47, which outlined three crucial steps to be taken. Firstly, the Pakistani troops were supposed to withdraw from Jammu and Kashmir. Secondly, India was expected to maintain only minimal Indian troops in the state. And finally, a plebiscite was proposed to be held after the withdrawal of the troops.
A plebiscite is a voting process in which the entire population of a country or district expresses their opinion on a proposal, particularly when it comes to choosing a government or ruler.
Unfortunately, the plebiscite never took place as expected after the UN’s involvement, mainly due to Pakistan’s failure to withdraw its troops from Jammu and Kashmir. Instead, in 1949, a ceasefire line was established through the Karachi Agreement. Both India and Pakistan maintained their existing positions, which closely resemble the modern-day Line of Control.
In 1963, according to the Sino-Pakistan Agreement, Pakistan gifted 5000 sq. km of the Trans Karakoram Tract, also known as the Shaksgam Tract, to China. This area, Shiksgam, is now under Chinese control and located to the north of Gilgit-Baltistan.
In 1972, a ceasefire was officially designated as the Line of Control, and an agreement known as the Shimla Agreement was signed between India and Pakistan. According to this agreement, both countries agreed to address the dispute through bilateral talks only.
On February 22, 1994, the Indian Parliament passed a resolution stating that the State of Jammu and Kashmir has been, is, and shall be an integral part of India. It demanded that Pakistan must vacate the illegally occupied territories of India.
On the 5th of August Article 370 was revoked in Jammu and Kashmir and special status for the state was removed by the Indian Government. On September 26, 2020, during the UN General Assembly, India reiterated its stand and discussed extending its physical jurisdiction. However, recently, Pakistan also declared Gilgit-Baltistan as a provisional 5th Province, violating both the Karachi and Shimla Agreement.
Why PoK is Important for India?
Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) holds immense significance for India due to several compelling reasons. Geographically, it shares borders with multiple countries, including Pakistan to the west, the Wakhan Corridor in the northwest, Afghanistan, and China’s Xinjiang province to the north.
In terms of natural resources, POK is richly endowed. The region boasts considerable hydroelectric potential, particularly in areas like Mirpur and Muzaffarabad. Additionally, valuable resources such as gold, coal, chalk, graphite, and bauxite are found here.
From a geopolitical standpoint, the situation becomes even more intricate. China’s substantial investment of 50 billion dollars in the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) adds a complex dimension. This corridor traverses through the POK region, presenting a considerable threat to India’s sovereignty.
Reasons Why Capturing PoK Has Proven Challenging for India:
- Mountainous Terrain: The rugged mountain terrains of PoK create obstacles for India’s access, while Pakistan’s lower elevation territories have an advantage in accessing PoK.
- India’s Defensive Strategy: India has upheld its tradition of refraining from initiating attacks for a long time. However, if Pakistan initiates a conflict, it might create an opportunity for India to reclaim PoK.
- Anti-India Sentiments: PoK harbours jihadists and extremists with anti-India and pro-Pakistan sentiments, making the region volatile and resistant to Indian influence.
- Ethnic Diversity: In Gilgit and Baltistan, non-Kashmiri populations do not identify strongly with Kashmir, making it challenging for India to garner support from the people in PoK.
- China’s Influence: China’s One Belt One Road and CPEC initiatives complicate the situation. India’s intervention in PoK could potentially trigger involvement from China.
- Nuclear Deterrence: Finally, the main reason it’s hard for India to take back PoK is because three countries – India, Pakistan, and China – all have very powerful nuclear weapons. According to NTI – Nuclear Threat initiative Pakistan has almost 280 KGs weapon-grade plutonium stockpile. And if there was a big fight involving these nuclear weapons, it could lead to a very serious problem for the whole world. Because of this, capturing PoK has always been a big challenge for India.
Options for India: How Can It Strengthen Its Stance on PoK?
- Setting up an Administration in Exile: India’s first option is to establish a PoK administration in exile, involving PoK refugees. This would give a platform for the refugees to express their concerns and become part of the administration. By doing so, India could gain the support of the PoK population, highlighting Pakistani repression and isolating Pakistan on the global stage.
- Filling Vacant Legislative Assembly Seats: In the Jammu and Kashmir legislative assembly, there are 24 vacant seats reserved for the PoK region. The J&K Reorganization Act, 2019 specifies that these seats will remain vacant until Pakistan withdraws from the region and democratic representatives are appointed. India could consider amending this act to allow democratic participation from PoK. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan feel neglected in Pakistan and suffer from discrimination. Inviting Gilgit-Baltistan representatives and pro-India activists to India could help address their concerns and foster support for India’s stance.
- Dealing with China’s Presence: The increasing Chinese presence in PoK has raised concerns among the local population. Initiating open dialogue with China to address investment concerns related to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) could be advantageous. However, Pakistan’s history of supporting anti-India insurgence complicates matters.
- Leveraging Afghanistan’s Political Landscape: Afghanistan’s political instability due to insurgencies offers opportunities. If a pro-India government emerges in Afghanistan, India could benefit. Providing military support to Afghanistan could aid India in capturing PoK.
- Seeking Global Support: Lastly, India needs global support for its stance on PoK. International backing would strengthen India’s position and create more pressure on Pakistan to address the PoK issue.
By exploring these options and working towards a strategic approach, India can navigate the complexities surrounding PoK and advance its interests in the region.
Acquiring PoK: Considerations for Lasting Peace and Development
- Potential Impact on Peace: While acquiring PoK could potentially bring about a sense of territorial integrity, it might not guarantee lasting peace. The region has a history of conflict and insurgency. Even after the acquisition, tensions with Pakistan and internal challenges could persist.
- Economic Implications: India currently allocates a significant portion of its defence budget, around 35%, to manage the security challenges in Jammu and Kashmir. Acquiring PoK would require even more resources, potentially diverting funds from other important sectors like infrastructure, education, and healthcare.
- Counterinsurgency Efforts: Dealing with the insurgency in Kashmir and the support of Pakistan-based terror groups is a complex and ongoing task. Acquiring PoK might not immediately solve these challenges, and counterinsurgency efforts could still be necessary.
- Resource Allocation: Acquiring PoK could potentially redirect India’s focus from developmental activities. Natural resources and funds that might have been used for development could be diverted towards security and stabilization efforts.
The revocation of Article 370 should be followed by comprehensive developmental measures in Jammu and Kashmir. Economic growth, infrastructure development, and improvement of the quality of life for the local population are crucial steps to gain their support.
To pursue a strong stance on PoK, the Indian government needs to unite regional parties and stakeholders. A unified national approach will send a strong message to the international community and could positively influence the resolution of the issue.
In conclusion, while acquiring PoK might hold strategic significance, it also comes with challenges. Lasting peace would require a multi-faceted approach, including economic development, addressing internal conflicts, and garnering the support of the local population. A united effort and a focus on comprehensive development are crucial for a peaceful and stable future for the region.