Tag Archives: Gilgit-Baltistan

Name changes: POK or POJ&K? 12 June 2014

Name changes: POK or POJ&K?   12 June 2014

India’s new Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Government is apparently contemplating changing the term ‘Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK)’ to ‘Pakistan Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJ&K)’. This move has upset some people, including Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah, who considers it an attempt to polarise the people of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)—or J&K-ites, as I call this divided and disputed population. Terminology is an important issue, including in relation to disputed J&K, the nomenclature for which I have sometimes found to be confusing, unclear and problematic.

In my experience, when Indians and Pakistanis use the term ‘Kashmir’, they often mean different things. For an Indian, ‘Kashmir’ generally refers to the region known as the Kashmir Valley—or Kashmir, for short—which, along with Jammu and Ladakh, comprises what I call ‘Indian J&K’: the area of J&K actually under India’s control. For a Pakistani, ‘Kashmir’ often refers to most of the former princely state of J&K. I say ‘most’ as Pakistan has been able—very cleverly since General Zia’s time—to suggest via maps and diplomacy that the Gilgit-Baltistan region in J&K’s north (known as the Northern Areas until 2009) is neither part of J&K, nor of the Kashmir dispute. Pakistan’s tactic, in which India seemingly sometimes acquiesces, arises because the British directly controlled the Gilgit Agency from the 1880s and the Gilgit Leased Area from the 1930s. Islamabad’s suggestion is that the two areas were not part of princely J&K. This is incorrect. Both areas actually belonged the Dogra maharaja as part of J&K’s Frontiers District Province. Furthermore, as was publicly recorded, the British returned the Gilgit Agency and the Gilgit Leased Area to Maharaja Hari Singh’s direct control and administration on 1 August 1947. Gilgit-Baltistan therefore is part of the India-Pakistan dispute over J&K.

Confusingly, ‘Kashmir’ also is used by historians and international relations scholars in the term ‘the Kashmir dispute’ that has existed since 1947 between India and Pakistan over which should possess the former princely state of J&K. J&K comprises five regions: Azad Kashmir; Gilgit-Baltistan; Jammu; Kashmir; Ladakh. However, the former princely entity was popularly called ‘Kashmir’ after its highest profile, best known and most celebrated part: Kashmir. This famous region essentially was/is the Kashmir Valley. Because the princely state was popularly called Kashmir, so we have ‘the Kashmir dispute’. More correctly, this issue should be called the ‘Jammu and Kashmir dispute’, or ‘the India-Pakistan dispute over Jammu and Kashmir’, or ‘the dispute over the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir’. However, because these terms are a mouthful and given the former princely state’s popular name, the Kashmir dispute has come to be commonly used.

Ethnically-speaking, differences also exist. For an Indian or someone from Indian J&K, a ‘Kashmiri’ is a resident of the Kashmir Valley. Most, but not all, ethnic Kashmiris in J&K live there, although Azad Kashmir also has some small populations. For a Pakistani, a Kashmiri could be anyone from the former princely state of J&K. In Azad (Free) Jammu and Kashmir—or Azad Kashmir, for short—as this region has formally called itself since 1947, a Kashmiri is a person from Azad Kashmir who, most probably, is not an ethnic Kashmiri. Azad Kashmiris call themselves ‘Kashmiris’ because their forebears were subjects in the former princely state of J&K commonly called ‘Kashmir’. Similarly, some ‘Pakistanis’ in the United Kingdom, a large percentage of whom actually are from Mirpur in Azad Kashmir, increasingly are calling themselves ‘Kashmiris’ in order to distinguish themselves from other British Pakistanis. These Mirpuris are not ethnic Kashmiris. Their links arise from the former princely state.

Then we get to the loaded terms, such as India’s ‘Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK)’ and Pakistan’s ‘Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK)’ or ‘Indian Held Kashmir (IHK)’. (Another term for New Delhi to consider is ‘Chinese-Occupied Kashmir’, which refers to Aksai Chin and Shaksgam.) Confusingly, when an Indian uses the term ‘POK’, he/she can be talking about three things: ‘POK’, which I call ‘Pakistan Administered J&K’ (comprising Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan); Azad Kashmir; or Gilgit-Baltistan. Such unclarity is made worse because some Indians cannot bring themselves to use the term ‘Azad Kashmir’. It sticks in their craws that these pro-Pakistanis are ‘free’, particularly as both Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan supposedly are an ‘integral part of India’ due to Maharaja Hari Singh’s accession to India in 1947. Interestingly, Azad Kashmiris do not consider themselves free in the sense of being independent. Rather, they became free from the maharaja’s control in 1947, then, post-accession, they were free from Indian control.

The terms ‘IOK’ and ‘IHK’ also confuse, chiefly as many Pakistanis don’t appear to be interested in obtaining possession of Indian J&K’s Jammu or Ladakh regions. Remembering that the ‘k’ in the acrostic ‘Pakistan’ stands for ‘Kashmir’, Pakistanis want the Kashmir Valley. Here there is an important aside: despite what many Indians and others believe, Pakistan does not officially claim all of J&K. Rather, it wants the United Nations plebiscite held so that the people of J&K can decide whether J&K, in its entirety, will join either India or Pakistan. Meanwhile, Islamabad is administering ‘its’ portion of J&K until this poll is held. Pakistanis’ hopes for a plebiscite are forlorn, however. Since the 1950s, India has been unwilling to have this poll held.

And, finally, to India’s proposed use of the term ‘Pakistan Occupied J&K’. It is easy to change a term, although the change may not have much relevance. However, for two reasons, the term ‘POJ&K’ is more correct than ‘POK’. First, as noted, the India-Pakistan dispute over J&K should actually be called ‘the Jammu and Kashmir dispute’, not just ‘the Kashmir dispute’. Second, most of Azad Kashmir comprises western areas of the former Jammu Province, chiefly Mirpur, Kotli and Poonch. The problem remains that, whatever term New Delhi decides to use, it does not reflect the confusing fact that ‘occupied’ Gilgit-Baltistan also is part of the Kashmir dispute. We need a new, more inclusive, term for this dispute!

The opinions in this blog are mine. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any organisations, professional or otherwise, with which I am involved or associated.

Christopher Snedden
12 June 2014


J&K’s Chequered Democratic History 23 April 2014

J&K’s Chequered Democratic History   23 April 2014

Since 1947, disputed Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) has had a chequered democratic history. The table below provides details about elections conducted since 1947. Many of these have been heavily controlled, or at least overseen, by militaries—Indian or Pakistani. Incumbent politicians have sought to maximise their (superior) position over rivals, including by intimidation or kidnapping of candidates, voters and the press, by using government machinery to their advantage, or by preventing or manipulating nominations, voting, campaigning and the counting or scrutineering of votes. Politicians in New Delhi or Islamabad also have influenced election outcomes, including by imposing their leader in a region. Some elections in J&K therefore have ended up being ‘selections’, not free and fair elections.

In Indian J&K, all elections until 1977 almost certainly were rigged to support the ruling, pro-India National Conference Party, or derivatives thereof, in which rigging New Delhi usually participated or acquiesced. Only the 1977 and 1983 elections were considered free and fair. In 1977, rigging was unnecessary due to the popularity of Sheikh Abdullah, who had reconciled with India. In 1983, Abdullah’s son, Farooq, received a sympathy vote following his father’s 1982 death. In 1987, many Kashmiris were appalled by a badly rigged election after Farooq Abdullah and Rajiv Gandhi, and their forces, colluded. The result provoked young, alienated Kashmiris to fight to free Kashmir from Indian control. From 1990-1996, Governor’s and President’s Rule abrogated democracy as Indians countered this bitter uprising. Slowly, India’s position improved. An election was held in J&K in 1996. Despite military intimidation to ‘encourage’ voters, the turnout was low in Kashmir—about 10 per cent. In 2002, voter turnout improved to 40 per cent throughout Indian J&K. In 2008, it was a respectable 61 per cent, despite freezing weather. Indian J&K is the only Indian state with six-yearly elections. The next is due in 2015.

In Pakistan-administered J&K, democracy has generally fared poorly. In Azad Jammu and Kashmir, only the Muslim Conference political party was allowed to exist until 1970, although Pakistan’s powerful Ministry of Kashmir Affairs dominated it, and the region. After a partyless, military-sanctioned Basic Democracy election in 1961, Azad Kashmiris had their first multi-party election in 1970. Reflecting a newly-instituted, relatively liberal constitution, this poll was arguably the freest and fairest ever conducted in South Asia. Thereafter, Azad Kashmir elections confronted challenges. The Pakistan Army ‘oversaw’ the 1985, 2001 and 2006 polls; the 1991 election was contentious, coming soon after the close 1990 election and Islamabad sacking the government; in the 1990s, anxious Azad Kashmiris voted while trying to balance supporting Kashmiris revolting in India and oppressive Pakistan authorities uncertain about how to handle this crisis; throughout, Islamabad invariably interfered to ensure ‘its’ politician ruled Azad Kashmir, confirming the saying: ‘The road to power in Muzaffarabad runs through Islamabad’. The next election is due in 2016.

In Gilgit-Baltistan, autocracy reigned unchallenged until 2009. Then, the Empowerment and Self-Governance Order gave Gilgit-Baltistanis a rudimentary constitution, a political arrangement reflecting Azad Kashmir’s, limited administrative autonomy—and, finally, the vote. The resultant election to the 24-member Legislative Assembly while flawed was acceptable to sufficient voters. Members then elected nine seats reserved for women and others. (Previously, voters had elected two advisory bodies: Northern Areas Executive Council (1994), Northern Areas Legislative Council (2000; 2004). These elections were not multi-party.) The Order does not state the administration’s term of office. The next election possibly is later this year.

Multi-party Elections Conducted in Jammu and Kashmir

Year Region Type Resulting Administration
1951 IJ&K Constitutional National Conference
1957 IJ&K LA National Conference
1962 IJ&K LA National Conference
1967 IJ&K LA Local branch of Indian National Congress
1970 AJ&K Presidential Sardar Qayyum Khan, Muslim Conference
1970 AJ&K LA Muslim Conference
1972 IJ&K LA Local branch of Congress (I)
1975 AJ&K LA Pakistan People’s Party–Azad Kashmir
1977 IJ&K LA National Conference
1983 IJ&K LA National Conference
1985 AJ&K LA Muslim Conference
1987 IJ&K LA National Conference-Congress (I) Alliance
1990 AJ&K LA People’s Democratic Party and
Indian National Congress
1991 AJ&K LA Muslim Conference
1996 IJ&K LA National Conference
1996 AJ&K LA Pakistan People’s Party–Azad Kashmir
2001 AJ&K LA Muslim Conference
2002 IJ&K LA People’s Democratic Party and
Indian National Congress
2006 AJ&K LA Muslim Conference
2008 IJ&K LA National Conference
2009 G-B LA Pakistan People’s Party
2011 AJ&K LA Pakistan People’s Party–Azad Kashmir

AJ&K   Azad Jammu and Kashmir
G-B      Gilgit-Baltistan
IJ&K     Indian Jammu and Kashmir
LA        Legislative Assembly

Some differences exist in J&K’s political arrangements. In Indian J&K, voters directly elect the 87-member Legislative Assembly; two women are nominated to seats. These members then indirectly elect the bulk of the 36-member upper house, the largely toothless Legislative Council. Voters in Indian J&K also elect six representatives to India’s Lok Sabha (lower house); the Legislative Assembly elects four members to India’s Rajya Sabha (upper house). Conversely, Azad Kashmiris and Gilgit-Baltistanis do not elect representatives to Pakistan’s National Assembly or Senate. Instead, each region has a unique Council arrangement comprising members of their Legislative Assembly and senior Pakistani politicians who jointly decide major matters as per each region’s constitution. The Pakistan Prime Minister chairs each Council. A further significant difference is that ‘refugees’ from J&K living in Pakistan elect twelve representatives to the 41-seat Azad Kashmir Legislative Assembly, after which members elect eight seats reserved for women and others. Given their smaller electorate sizes, particularly for ethnic Kashmiris, these ‘refugees’, many of whom are entrenched Pakistanis, have disproportionate influence. This arrangement also helps Islamabad to manipulate elections.

J&K’s patchy democracy, while better than nothing, is partly explicable. First, India and Pakistan have wanted to ensure their positions in J&K by supporting political surrogates and ignoring, or even encouraging, malpractices. Second, the state’s former ruler, Maharaja Hari Singh, had autocratic practices that informed local politicians: ignoring constituents; stifling free speech; jailing opponents; ‘selecting’ members to the Praja Sahba (People’s House), not having them elected. Despite such political repression, senior J&K politicians quickly injected some of Singh’s practices into local politics.

Christopher Snedden
23 April 2014

Actual and Perceptional ‘Borders’ in J&K 22 January 2014



Map above from The Economist, 8 February 2012, www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/05/indian_pakistani_and_chinese_border_disputes


Actual and Perceptional ‘Borders’ in J&K     22 January 2014

The dispute over the international status of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is old, complicated and convoluted. India and Pakistan have been engaged in this matter emotionally, diplomatically and militarily from before the British left the Indian subcontinent in August 1947. J&K was then important to them because the princely state—commonly called ‘Kashmir’ after its most famous region—was prestigious. In 1947, J&K was India’s largest princely state. It had international borders with Afghanistan, China and (then independent) Tibet; the USSR’s Tajikistan Republic was nearby to the north. Some major rivers flowed through J&K: the Indus, Jhelum and Chenab. Finally, J&K would share post-partition borders with Pakistan and India, albeit short with India, with both nations wanting to include the princely state in their territory.

In the finish, neither nation secured all of J&K. Since 1947, the former princely state has been militarily-divided between India, which controls Jammu, the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh, and Pakistan, which administers Azad (Free) Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. China controls two areas nominally under J&K’s control in 1947: Aksai Chin and Shaksgam. Officially, India claims all of the territory ‘occupied’ by Pakistan and China because the ruler of J&K, Maharaja Sir Hari Singh, acceded to India on 26 October 1947. For New Delhi, all of J&K is an ‘integral part of India’. Pakistan is administering ‘its’ areas until a United Nations-supervised plebiscite can be held to determine whether the people of J&K want ‘their’ state, in its entirety, to join India or Pakistan. India and China, as part of their ongoing territorial and border negotiations, are discussing Aksai Chin. Beijing has said that it will renegotiate its control of Shaksgam should India and Pakistan resolve their dispute over J&K.

Interestingly, but problematically, India and Pakistan each has a different perception as to what comprises the former princely state. Official Indian maps show all of J&K as being Indian territory, even though civilian Indians have never set foot in areas outside India’s control: Azad Kashmir; Gilgit-Baltistan; Aksai Chin; Shaksgam. Official Pakistani maps show the Gilgit Agency as not being part of the ‘disputed territory’ of J&K. (Such maps also often show Junagadh and Manavadar, whose rulers acceded to Pakistan in 1947, as being Pakistan’s.) Although the British controlled the Gilgit Agency from the 1880s, they publicly returned (or retroceded) control of this territory to the Maharaja of J&K on 1 August 1947. Therefore, Gilgit is part of J&K, and of the Kashmir dispute.

India is fussy about maps of J&K, with New Delhi sometimes insisting that publications must use its official map of the former princely state. In 2012, New Delhi censored editions of The Economist that included a map showing the actual situation on the ground in disputed J&K  (like the map above), rather than showing all of J&K as being Indian territory. For this reason, I chose not include any maps in my book about Azad Kashmir that was published internationally in 2012, and in Pakistan and India in 2013.

Another issue is terminology. The India-Pakistan dispute over J&K is known as ‘the Kashmir dispute’ because, when the princely state was created in 1846, the most prestigious and reasonably autonomous part of the entity was Kashmir. Fairly quickly thereafter, both J&K and its rulers came to be called ‘Kashmir’. For this reason, although the dispute over J&K should be called the ‘Jammu and Kashmir dispute’, it is known instead as the ‘Kashmir dispute’. Otherwise, when Indians use the term ‘Kashmir’, they are referring to the Kashmir Valley that India controls and which Pakistan desires. For Indians, residents of Kashmir are ethnic Kashmiris. When Pakistanis use the term ‘Kashmir’, they may be referring to the Kashmir Valley. More often, they are referring to the entire former princely state. Similarly, when Pakistanis use the term ‘Kashmiri’, they may be referring to an ethnic Kashmiri. More often, they are referring to a resident of the former princely state. Pakistanis also talk of an ‘Azad Kashmiri’. This is a resident of the ‘Azad Kashmir’ region who, more often than not, is not an ethnic Kashmiri.

Neither India nor Pakistan knows how—nor seemingly is prepared—to resolve their dispute over J&K. Pakistan officially wants the UN plebiscite held, which is untenable for India. Conversely, India wants it and Pakistan to resolve this bilateral matter, although unofficially Pakistan might like mediation by a third party, possibly the United States, which also is untenable for India. However, the Kashmir dispute already has trilateral aspects. J&K-ites (my term for the people of J&K) are the third party to this dispute. Furthermore, in 1963, Pakistan ceded territory that India considers to be its to China; since 1948, the UN Security Council has been involved with India and Pakistan re J&K and could, if desired, re-open this matter sidelined since 1965; and, the UN has its Military Observer Group that monitors the Line of Control that divides J&K into Indian and Pakistan-administered areas.

Having been involved analysing the Kashmir dispute since 1984, I know that this issue generates considerable argument among Indians, Pakistanis and J&K-ites. Surprisingly, I have found only one matter about which India and Pakistan agree in their entire dispute over J&K: that neither J&K, nor any part of it, can have independence. This ‘agreement’ is counter to the azadi (independence) that some, perhaps many, J&K-ites living in places such as Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan and Mirpur, may desire. That said, we don’t know what status, or statuses, J&K-ites actually want as they have never been asked this question in any inclusive or conclusive way. Indeed, J&K-ites are the forgotten element of the Kashmir dispute—even though they actually instigated the fight over J&K’s international status before India or Pakistan was officially involved in the state and even though this fight is over their lands. This makes J&K-ites the first party to the Kashmir dispute—a fact not recognised, or forgotten, by India and Pakistan. When it comes to J&K, there is little agreement between anyone, it seems.

Christopher Snedden
22 January 2014

China-Pakistan Collusion? 3 September 2013

China-Pakistan Collusion?                                               3 September 2013

China, India and Pakistan have an interesting triangular relationship. China and Pakistan strategically are very close, with significant trade, considerable Chinese investment in Pakistan, and, most importantly for Pakistan, with China providing advanced military materiel, often at concessionary prices. Allegedly, China also has helped Pakistan develop nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities. For Islamabad, China is Pakistan’s ‘all-weather friend’. For China, a strong Pakistan offers the chance to ‘outflank’ India, particularly in the event of another China-India war. The first such war occurred in 1962, which vicariously encouraged China-Pakistan relations to become closer. The People’s Republic of China was then internationally ‘on the nose’ because of its aggressive communism, with Taiwan the favoured representative for all of ‘China’. Conversely, Pakistan was seen favourably as it was involved with some United States-led military alliances. Arguably, the situation now has reversed, with relations with China highly desired and Pakistan disliked because of its support for terrorists in Afghanistan or against India.

A potential benefit for China of close relations with Pakistan is that the latter could function as a ‘safe’ conduit for moving energy supplies overland to China rather than via the sea. China may be looking to develop an energy corridor from the Pakistani port of Gwadar, in south-western Baluchistan, via Pakistan and the rugged Pakistan-controlled region of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), to Chinese Xinjiang. This route would be considerably shorter than going via the Indian Ocean, South China Sea and mainland China. It also would be more secure: India can control access to the western entrance to the strategic Malacca Strait, through which much Chinese shipping now must pass, because it possesses the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Currently, China and India relations are good, with two-way trade flourishing. Worth some $67 billion, it is heavily in China’s favour, much to India’s chagrin. Otherwise, the China-India relationship is difficult. There are major unresolved issues over their joint border and over possession of India’s Arunachal Pradesh state—Southern Tibet for China—and Aksai Chin, which is under China’s control but claimed by India because it was once part of the (disputed) former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The Shaksgam area just north of Aksai Chin, which Pakistan ceded to China in 1963, also is theoretically part of both the Kashmir dispute and the China-India dispute, as India also claims this former area of J&K. Beijing has stated that it is prepared to renegotiate ownership of Shaksgam if India and Pakistan resolve their dispute over J&K. This is unlikely soon. Indeed, China-India relations surpass India-Pakistan relations, with Beijing and New Delhi having completed 15 rounds of discussions since 1981 about their border and territory disputes.

One complication for India in the triangular relationship is the possibility that China and Pakistan might be colluding to India’s detriment. While there is no open-source information to confirm such collusion, it makes strategic sense. Recently, China has been more militarily assertive, even aggressive, along the Line of Actual Control (LOAC) that separates Chinese- and Indian-held territory. Along the Line of Control (LOC) in disputed J&K, Indian and Pakistani exchanges have returned to their pre-2003 ceasefire levels. While the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) or the Pakistan Army could undertake these actions autonomously, collusion between them is possible. There have been a number of high-level official China-Pakistan visits in recent years, while Chinese engineers, probably PLA, are helping Pakistani military engineers rebuild the Karakoram Highway (KKH) that crosses Gilgit-Baltistan. This strategic road was rendered impassable by a landslide in 2010, after which a large lake 20-kilometres long appeared. Travellers must now traverse this lake to travel between Kashgar, Xinjiang, and G-B’s largest town, Gilgit.

Interestingly, New Delhi appears prepared to renounce India’s supposed ownership of Gilgit-Baltistan, even though officially this region is an ‘integral part of India’. For India, its long-held way to resolve the India-Pakistan dispute over J&K is to convert the LOC into the international border. By doing so, India nominally would ‘lose’ the two (of J&K’s five) regions that Pakistan has controlled since 1947: Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. Losing the former region, which is small, would not be significant; losing the latter region, which is large, would be. First, India would forego any chance of directly accessing Afghanistan, with which G-B shares a border in its north. Although such access would be difficult, China is considering constructing a road or rail link from Xinjiang to Afghanistan via the Wakhan Corridor, which runs immediately north of, and would be accessible from, G-B. Currently, India’s only way of accessing Afghanistan is via Iran or Pakistan. Second, it would allow Pakistan and China unchallenged control of G-B and the important Karakoram Highway that physically links both nations. Third, G-B (like Azad Kashmir) has significant hydro-electricity potential, with Pakistan intending to build a dam in this region. The Diamir-Bhasha Dam wall and electrical works will strategically be located in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, which indisputably is part of Pakistan; the bulk of the dam’s water would be stored in disputed G-B. For energy-hungry India, controlling G-B would offer further energy possibilities.

A final interesting aspect of the China-India-Pakistan triangle concerns India’s control of the Arunachal Pradesh/Southern Tibet area. The Tawang Tract in Arunachal Pradesh’s west has long been sacred to Tibetan Buddhists, some of whom speculate that the Dalai Lama will reincarnate there—conveniently outside China’s control. This may partially explain China’s increased hostility in this area. Conversely, India has decided to raise new Mountain Strike Corps comprising 30,000-40,000 soldiers to counter aggressive PLA activities, including by striking Xizang (Tibet). This meshes with one of India’s major ongoing concerns: having to fight a two-front war against China and Pakistan, including in remote mountain areas of J&K and along the LOAC. While currently a remote possibility, strategic circumstances can change quickly.

Christopher Snedden
3 September 2013

Some things never change—but they need to 15 July 2013


It’s been an interesting fortnight—and apologies for no blog piece last week. I had a few things going on in my life.

About a week ago, I received a wonderful and positive message on Facebook about my book Kashmir: The Unwritten History from a person whose professional expertise I admire. Anuradha Bhasin of the Kashmir Times seemingly accepts my analysis that people in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)—or J&K-ites, as I call them—instigated the dispute over J&K’s international status. Certainly, in her concluding statement on Facebook, Anuradha states “that this is one book that is a must read”. This, of course, is gratifying for me.

Conversely, a few days before this Facebook posting, I read a report titled Gilgit-Baltistan: Between Hope and Despair by an Indian analyst who has done considerable work on ‘Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir’, as Indians call those parts of J&K under Pakistan’s administration, and who has read and reviewed my book. Interestingly, in seeking briefly to explain the term ‘Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir’, Priyanka Singh states that Azad Kashmir “was usurped after [the] deceitful tribal invasion launched by the Pakistani army whereas Gilgit Baltistan was forced to accede to Pakistan after a mutiny by the Maharaja’s forces led by British Major William Brown”. Her statement totally denies that Azad Kashmir came into being as a result of people’s actions in Jammu Province: the anti-maharaja Poonch uprising that began soon after partition and some serious inter-religious violence that occurred in Jammu Province in September-October 1947. As for Gilgit-Baltistan, while Brown was certainly involved in this incident, so too were some enthusiastically pro-Pakistan Gilgitis.

A third event recently was a discussion about my book on 10 July at the India International Centre, New Delhi, which I unfortunately was unable to attend. The Chair was B.G. Verghese, an “eminent journalist and writer” who also reviewed my book in The Tribune on 28 April 2013. I am hopeful that an audio will be released about this session. It will be interesting to hear the discussion, especially as Verghese considered my book “useful … [but] sourced and seen entirely from Pakistan and Islamabad [with] virtually no Indian or international citations or analysis that questions or controverts this one-sided version”. The book and its Bibliography suggested otherwise.

I should not be precious. Since the release of my book about Azad Kashmir in June last year, I have learnt two things and I am reminded of a third. First, regardless of what one says, writes or does, people will generally always believe or disbelieve what they want to believe or disbelieve—even in the face of contrary facts and information. Second, one has little or no control whatsoever over what other people write or say about another person or their work. Third, everyone is entitled to their opinion. I accept these three ‘rules’, noting that politicians, who also adhere to them, must have incredibly thick skins at times.

These rules also suggest that the Kashmir dispute will be difficult to resolve. Indians and Pakistanis have totally different positions and understandings, certainly at the official level, on almost all aspects of the dispute, even though, in my opinion, some of these positions and understandings are inaccurate, or just plain wrong. As I state on p. 219 of my book, “the only point that I have found on which India and Pakistan agree in their entire dispute over possession of the former princely state is that neither J&K, nor any part of it, can become independent”. This does not provide a strong basis for resolving the Kashmir dispute. Nor does it offer much scope to involve the people in my “ridiculously utopian” suggestion—as Omair Ahmed disparingly (as I see it, although he is entitled to his opinion, of course) calls it in The Sunday Guardian of 1 June 2013—to enable J&K-ites to resolve the Kashmir dispute.

The question for me is: despite writing what I consider to be a truthful, non-partisan account of what happened in J&K in 1947, can these official and unofficial perceptions of the Kashmir dispute be changed? If so, how? Finding common ground, politically and metaphorically, is one of the greatest issues in relation to resolving the Kashmir dispute.

Christopher Snedden
15 July 2013

Gilgit-Baltistan: decidedly odd—and devastating 24 June 2013

Gilgit-Baltistan: decidedly odd—and devastating                   24 June 2013

The attack early on Sunday 23 June against foreigners in the Diamer area of Gilgit-Baltistan in disputed Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) is decidedly odd—and devastating. The situation is not yet fully clear, but up to 20 ‘gunmen’ shot and killed eleven people, one Pakistani and ten foreigners, near the 8,126 metre Nanga Parbat peak. Some of the dead apparently were soon going to attempt to climb this Himalayan peak, which is the ninth highest in the world.

The gunmen were well organised and motivated. Because of the area of attack’s remoteness and rugged terrain, there are limited routes into, and out of, the Diamer (or western) face to Nanga Parbat. Indeed, to reach this location requires a helicopter flight or at least 18 hours trekking, both of which involve the requirement to be acclimatised. The attackers apparently wore the uniform of the local Gilgit Scouts. Taken together, these factors suggest that the gunmen were fit, resilient and well-equipped, that they had some sort of plan for entry and egress, and that they had some degree of local knowledge and support. One question is support from whom?

So far, the gunmen have not been found, a disturbing factor for some Pakistani and local tour operators who consider that this area, because of its isolation, could be cordoned and searched, with human movement from the air apparently relatively easy to spot, and the perpetrators possibly found.

It seems that the attackers may have been operatives from the Pakistan Taliban, as a spokesman from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistani Taliban) claimed responsibility for the attack, stating that it was to obtain revenge against US drone strikes, including one that recently killed this organisation’s deputy chief, Waliur Rehman.

This revenge aspect is surprising. First, the Pakistani Taliban generally operates in north-western Pakistan. Second, possibly only one of foreigners killed was a United States citizen of Chinese descent and with dual citizenship, while two were from the People’s Republic of China, with which nation Pakistan has a strong relationship that Islamabad would not want to jeopardise. The other foreigners apparently were citizens from Nepal (one), Lithuania (one), Slovakia (two) and Ukraine (three). Of these nations, Nepal and China have never been directly involved supporting the United States, which is responsible for the anti-Taliban drone strikes that have afflicted the Af-Pak border area as part of its strategy to placate Afghanistan. Third, there were foreign targets, or places where foreigners frequent, that are much easier to attack than the remote Nanga Parbat area.

A further odd aspect of the attack is that locals and tourist operators have blamed unstated ‘enemies of Pakistan, who are “well-known” ’ to them. They believe that these ‘enemies’ are not from the Gilgit-Baltistan area given that some 250,000 people apparently rely on tourism and would not want to see its hampered locally (see http://pamirtimes.net/2013/06/23/massacre-near-nanga-parbat-pato-demands-arrest-of-terrorists-behind-tourist-killing/).

The term ‘enemies of Pakistan’ could refer to Indian forces who certainly would have the capabilities to mount such an attack. However, media reporting and public statements, plus the probable route used by the invaders, suggest otherwise. So too does the fact that foreigners were blatantly killed, which, to me, does not suggest direct Indian involvement. Such an operation would be too dangerous politically, diplomatically and militarily.

Reading between the lines and given that these ‘enemies’ are non-local, they possibly could be anti-Shia Sunni radicals ‘imported’ into the region and/or allowed to covertly live there who previously have engaged in some serious and unsavoury sectarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan, including by attacking Shia passengers on buses that ply major roads that traverse this region. Possibly, these elements may be under the tutelage and control of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate and might be on standby for use against India in J&K. However, a conundrum is why they would be used in the way that they have been. One possible answer is that they went ‘rogue’ and undertook an unapproved mission of their own volition. It remains to be seen.

There are two devastating aspect of the attack. First, people involved in tourism in both Pakistan and Gilgit-Baltistan now will suffer a downturn in visitors. Visits to Nanga Parbat have now been suspended. Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) already advises people considering travel to ‘Border areas with Afghanistan and India (excluding Lahore, Kasur and Narowal)’ to ‘Do Not Travel’. Indeed, at a time when moderate Pakistanis—who comprise the overwhelming bulk of the Pakistan nation—need to be embraced and empowered, politically, economically, culturally, socially and diplomatically, DFAT’s Travel Warning for Pakistan states: “We continue to strongly advise Australians to reconsider their need to travel to Pakistan overall due to the very high threat of terrorist attack, kidnapping, sectarian violence and the unpredictable security situation”. Many potential tourists now fear that Pakistan is far too dangerous a place to visit. This is very tragic. There are risks involved travelling to Pakistan, but this warning, which is typical of those of Western governments, suggest that the terrorists are winning in Pakistan.

Second, while Gilgit-Baltistan is not under Pakistan’s de jure control, it is certainly under Pakistan’s de facto control. This incident is a real signal to the new Nawaz Sharif-led Government that Pakistan has some major problems with anti-social elements, especially those located in remote areas, including in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas and Baluchistan. For Islamabad, these various terrorists will take a sustained effort, much policy creativity and considerable time to defeat.


Christopher Snedden
24 June 2013