New cartographic war between India and Pakistan?
“Any idea of a United India could never have worked, and in my judgement, it would have led us to a terrific disaster.” - Muhammad Ali Jinnah
On the 4th of August, 2020 at 7:09 p.m IST, The Honourable Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Imran Khan, in a rather provocative manner, unveiled the new Pakistan map, and it’s the last thing we want to deal with, amidst the existing national affairs.
It came across as no less than a mild surprise, when we noticed that the new Pakistan map included the entirety of Jammu and Kashmir and parts of Gujarat, since the Pakistani government has done this multiple times before, but this was considered a new low, as stated by many politicians. India, maintained its calm and dismissed this as ridiculous and baseless, as this had no credibility of any sort and neither did it have international recognition.
This new map, as stated above had the entirety of Kashmir marked under Pakistan, but nowhere was the part of the Kashmir and Ladakh border with China marked, in fact, that had been pronounced ‘Frontier Undecided’. Similarly, the LoC had been extended till Karakoram Pass, which implicitly points out that Siachen was also apparently a part of Pakistan. Another major change we saw, was that the International Border Lines, lie across the eastern bank of Sir Creek, when it previously lied on the western bank.
Dr. Subhramanyam Jaishankar, the Minister of External affairs (India) in a brief session of statements was quoted saying, “ ‘We have seen a so-called political map’ of Pakistan that has been released by Prime Minister Imran Khan. This is an exercise in political absurdity, laying untenable claims to territories in the Indian State of Gujarat and our Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and of Ladakh.”
Under ‘normal circumstances’, this article would’ve ended above, but things are never under normal circumstances for India, are they? Fortunately, this time India has landed itself an opportunity.
Amidst all this hullabaloo, we almost missed something - For the first ever time in a Pakistani Map, Gilgit-Baltistan has been included as a part of Kashmir, which is something India has been claiming since time immemorial. This could be the perfect opportunity for India, only if it moves the right pawns and plays safe.
Back when Maharaja Hari Singh was in control of Kashmir as such, many areas of PoK also came under his watch, through different agreements with the kings of Chitral, Hunza, etc. Now, Pakistan denied this entirely in front of the World Community, and slowly established its dominance in the area in 1947, and even refused to move despite the fact that a United Nations Security Council resolution had been passed asking it to comply. This area was on common ground (literally) with Afghanistan, China and the then Soviet-Union and looked interesting enough for the British to glance this way and decide that it would now become part of their big charade. Pakistan, quick enough to realise this, signed the Karachi Agreement in 1949, which pronounced a small area as ‘Azad Kashmir’. This was later named, and is now called Gilgit-Baltistan.
Unfortunately, Gilgit-Baltistan remains in a legal turmoil even today, since the Constitution of Pakistan doesn’t recognise it as a separate territory and hence is also excluded from the division on fundamental rights and definition of the State of Pakistan. Essentially and in simple words, this means absolutely no rights for the people living there. They carry Pakistani passports, but can’t vote; an absolute shame.
This new map of Pakistan clearly shows Kashmir as one whole entity, which essentially agrees with India’s Parliamentary Resolution of 1994, which counts in Gilgit-Baltistan as a part of Kashmir. There are only two things India needs to keep in mind - Either this could just be a petty public relations exercise, though the Pakistan has to be aware of the possible dangers, one being India reclaiming PoK or in relation to this, we must notice that this map subtly leaves out the Ladakh border, implying that Pakistan clearly does not want to get into deep waters with China, competing its claims there.
India has fallen upon an opportunity of a lifetime, and it is up to them whether to play this right, or let this slip away. All we can do is wait and watch with bated breath.