India should be assertive and proactive to claim the strategically vital parts of Kashmir “illegally” occupied by Pakistan where China has increased its footprints leading to fears that Beijing may take over the territory by 2020, according to a report. The report by New Delhi think tank Institute of Defence Studies and Analysis says China’s growing footprint in the region had added another strategic dimension to the discourse on the territory that includes Northern Areas, also called Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir. “These realities are certain to impinge on India’s long-term security interests and therefore it is incumbent upon Indian policy makers to adopt a pro-active approach towards PoK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) which is an integral part of India,” it says.
The report alleges that the Karakoram Highway (KKH) connecting Pakistan with China through Pakistani Kashmir has been used for the clandestine transfer of nuclear material from Beijing to Islamabad. “That this has multiple strategic implications for regional security, especially that of India, has been underscored,” it states. The 1,280-km-long highway connects Havelian rail-head near Abbottabad in Pakistan with Kashgar in Xinjiang region of China. It was built in 1978 with Chinese assistance. Detailing Chinese developmental projects in Pakistani Kashmir, the report says Chinese companies were working on a number of hydel projects, including Neelum-Jhelum, Gomal Zam and the reconstruction of Mangla dam.
The report citing Pakistan media alleges that the joint power projects signed between China and Pakistan during President Asif Ali Zardari’s visit in 2009 were “not transparent” as “often Chinese companies were awarded contracts without open bidding. “Therefore, it is difficult to have a clear idea of the nature and extent of Chinese involvement in PoK.” It says that people of the region were fearing that if the “current pace of Chinese penetration is sustained, then China may completely take over Gilgit Baltistan by the year 2020”.
“This is not an alarmist proposition and such prospects have been hinted at in a New York Times article (that) states that at least 7,000-11,000 Chinese troops have been stationed in the Gilgit Baltistan region.” It “highlights the harsh realities of misrule and neglect in the region” and observes that “popular resentment against Pakistan is increasing day by day”.
Reminding the Indian government of the 1994 parliamentary resolution declaring entire Jammu and Kashmir territory as an integral part of India, the report recommends that the government “should openly claim its rightful position on PoK in international fora and denounce Pakistan’s illegal occupation. “India should not only rethink its approach but also try and mobilise international opinion against bad governance and (the) unlawful occupation since 1947,” it says.
It recommends that the Indian government should send a “clear and explicit message” to Pakistan and China, “which is seeking to fulfil its strategic objectives by involving itself in developmental projects”.