India, under the British rule, prior to the partition in 1947, was on its northern frontier, surrounded by Afghanistan (North-West), Tajikistan (North), and China (North-East).
However, during the process of partition, the country on its northern frontier was partitioned into India and Pakistan, demarcated by the “Radcliffe Line”, named after “Sir Cyril Radcliffe”, who was the architect, and the joint chairman of the two boundary commissions for the two provinces, namely Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir comprised of the political landmass of the ‘Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir’ (J&K) that acceded to India on October 26, 1947.
Prior to August 15, 1947, J&K had been was the largest of the 562 princely States, with an area of 218779 Square KMS, almost equal to the total area of Belgium, Denmark, Holland, Austria and Albania, all put together. Administratively, comprised three provinces; Kashmir, Jammu, and the Frontier Province of Ladakh & Gilgit. While the whole of the J&K State acceded to India, portions of it came to be illegally occupied by Pakistan (besides some area by China). The area under illegal occupation of Pakistan comprise two administrative regions – ‘Gilgit Baltistan’ and ‘Azad Jammu Kashmir’.
Due to the Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru, approaching the United Nations, and the UN seeking a resolution in 1948; the UN passed ‘resolution 47’ on April 21, 1948; which resulted in Pakistan obtaining a proxy control over POK (Read Gilgit Baltistan’ and ‘Azad Jammu Kashmir’). Subsequently, maintaining a status quo, a ‘Line of Control’ was drawn to demark POK, from the Indian territory.
As mentioned previously, the Radcliffe Line, marked the Indian territory borders with Afghanistan, Tajikistan and China; however, with the occupation of POK, India was cut off from both Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Resulting in being surrounded by two hostile neighbors, who via POK had obtained direct access to each other.
This enabled both the hostile forces to work in tandem, both on the economic (One Road One Belt – OROB) and military front, and flank the northern borders of India. POK, has gained strategic importance, as China’s ‘One Road One Belt’ mega ambitious plan passes through POK, and is essential to China, in order for it to have uninterrupted access to Pakistan’s Gwadar Port (Which too has been built by China); in order to effectively surround India both from east and as well as west. On the other hand, from India’s point of view, having a control over POK gives India a direct access to Afghanistan, and an indirect access to Iran, where India has its strategic interest in the ‘Port of Chabahar’.
This allows India with an enhanced capability of flanking Pakistan from both east and west. As the distance between ‘Port of Chabahar’ and ‘Gwadar Port’ is barely 72 KMS. Further, owing to its proximity to ‘Gwadar Port’, and clubbed with the superiority of the Indian Naval Command, ‘Port of Chabahar’ is a strategic asset to act as a choke point for any activity that might take place in ‘Gwadar Port’.
POK, at its northern most tip, touches the border of Afghanistan, from where the distance to Tajikistan’s border at its shortest; mere 13 KMS. The Indian air force has two air bases ‘Farkhor’, and ‘Ayni’ air bases, in Tajikistan. ‘Farkhor’ air base is a just 15 minutes striking distance from Islamabad. It is believed that a squadron of ‘SU 30 MKI’ and ‘MIG 29’, along with ‘MI 17’ Helicopters are stationed out of Tajikistan.
This defines the strategic importance of POK for India wherein it not only enables India to surround Pakistan, but also blocks China from reaching ‘Gwadar Port’ by nixing China’s OROB ambition. Leaving China, no other option but to take the route of the Indian Ocean circumcising Sri Lankan maritime territory, or operating through its ‘Hambantota Port’ in Sri Lanka.
However, India has its counter present in the form of its covert air base ‘Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport’, which is just 15 KMS away from ‘Hambantota Port’. Thus, creating a choke point for China, in the Indian Ocean too. Having understood the strategic value of POK, should India integrate POK with the Republic of India?
To arrive at an answer, one needs to understand the human aspect of and consequences of this integration. Integrating POK, will result in a major demographic shift in the region, as mass conversions have been taking place over the years in POK. Below is a list of the different ethnic groups that are living in POK today:
– Gujjar (Sikh origin, converted to Islam)
– Jat (Sikh origin, converted to Islam)
– Pahari Rajputs (Brahman Hindu origin, converted to Islam)
– Sudhan (Sadozai basically, migrated from Tribal Areas to Kashmir)
– Abbasi (Tribe having Muslim origin and are descendants of Bani Abbas i.e Abbasid Dynasty)
– Awan (Muslims origin, but there is a frail /un-authentic evidence of being descendants of Hazrat Ali, cousin of Prophet Mohammad)
Secondly, considering the neglect that the population has received from the Pakistani establishment, it will be a huge drain on Indian resources to integrate them in the Indian society, wherein the responsibility of all amenities like nutrition, healthcare, shelter, education employment etc. will fall upon the Indian republic, and hence, the Indian tax payer. It will further burden the Indian establishment, as additional military and para military forces will be required to maintain law & order, peace & tranquility in the newly acquired region. These would only be recurring expenses.
Their will be additional capital expenses that will have to be borne in terms of infrastructure development of rail, roads, housing, sanitation, irrigation, power generation, and other such undertakings. Refraining from going into detailed statistics on this issue for now. Hence, the most lucrative, and win-win situation is presented where this region is made autonomous, in term of governance; where it be supported from outside for their overall development; assisted in every manner (within reasonable limits). Enabling them to become self sufficient eventually.
However, in this process, the objective has to be to make them allies, wherein they realize that their eventual well being lies with the Republic of India, and hence they pledge their allegiance to New Delhi.