Pakistan cannot integrate PoK
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 04 Feb , 2020

In a formal statement, Pakistan foreign office spokesperson rubbished the rumours of Islamabad proposing the integration of PoK into the mainland and thus terminating the status of the region as Azad Kashmir. The speculation had been making rounds after the Indian parliament abrogated the clause of Article 370 granting special status to J&K.

In the early aftermath of the constitutional reorganization of J&K, Pakistan showed signs of unease about how to react to India’s blitzkrieg in Kashmir. Its unease was on two counts. One was that it had never anticipated a wholesome change in New Delhi’s Kashmir strategy and the second, of course, more shocking, was how skilfully India had dashed ISI’s plan of announcing a Kashmir government in exile. What New Delhi did was a slap on the face of Pakistan. In Kashmir Pakistan could not disclose the contemplated perfidy nor did India spill the beans. Both countries turned it into a hush-hush affair.

The question for Pakistan was how to respond to India’s game-changing strategy in Kashmir.  Islamabad-Beijing hotline heated up and Pakistani emissary headed towards Beijing. In their discussions, Beijing concentrated on what could be the contours of the impact of India’s claim over the parts of the original State of J&K under its illegal occupation.  Beijing did not respond to the nervousness of its Pakistani visitor.

Pakistan’s exhortations with the Islamic countries and OIC proved a damp squib, and except for Turkey and Malaysia, no Muslim state bet an eyelid. Imran turned to President Trump and kept telling the beads while unfurling the litany of complaints against India. Pakistani television channels gave the event extraordinary publicity to convince the unsuspecting Pakistani population but more the jihadist organizations, that the Imran-led government was not going to let Kashmir issue lay low in its political chemistry. Frustrated Imran and his psychopathic colleagues began talking nuke but soon to be admonished by her friends in the western world.

As Imran was looking for a scapegoat, and incidentally he didn’t find one, he threw bait to his political adversaries and the multitude of jihadists on home turf that integrating PoK into Pakistan mainland could be an option to pay back India in the same coin. However, a more considerate view emerging from Islamabad underplayed ISI’s ploy of integration narrative. It rubbished the idea of integration of illegally occupied parts of J&K.

We may recollect that only weeks ago, massive anti-Pak demonstrations were staged in Muzaffarabad by the nationalist elements of PoK demanding free flow of civil and political rights of the local people and an end to discriminatory treatment. Similarly, soon after Indian Parliament abrogated Article 370 and converted the State into two union territories, the nationalists in Gilgit Baltistan brought out a rally and demanded accession of GB to the original State. In the light of rising demand all over PoK and G-B for the free flow of rights, announcing the integration of PoK and G-B into Pakistan as the sixth province would be a red rag to the bull. Pakistan is not in a position to open another volatile front when the contiguous Khyber Pukhtunkhwa is already simmering with discontent and betting for Pushtoon land.

The legal, constitutional and de jure status of “Azad Jammu and Kashmir” is vague and indistinct. Laws are made to make and break without the consent of the people on whom these are applied. Anybody applying for any vacant government job has to give an undertaking that he or she will owe allegiance to Pakistan. Pakistan is cleverly keeping both options open meaning that the bogus state of PoK is and is not part of Pakistan. This gives her the leverage of using PoK as the launching pad for jihadists to infiltrate into the India part of Kashmir and yet argue that the infiltrators are the citizens of Kashmir and not Pakistan. By integrating PoK into Pakistan, that leverage will be lost and any infiltration made into Indian part of Kashmir will be considered an aggression against India. Therefore, Islamabad is hesitant in integrating the region.

PoK Diaspora in western countries, particularly the UK where about a million of them are settled, makes annual remittances to the tune of billions of dollars through Pakistani banks. A large chunk of these remittances is utilized by Pakistani bankers for development schemes of Punjab province only. Not even the smallest fraction is spent on developmental projects in PoK. In a recent report of the European Union, a very grim economic and developmental picture of PoK has been presented. It vindicates the litany of grievances expressed by the PoK Diaspora. There is every apprehension that in a case of integration of the region, the foreign remittances would either dry up or be routed through a different channel depriving Pakistani bankers of enormous profits they make out of it.  Islamabad government would not take a risk like that.

In the light of SC resolutions on Kashmir, PoK and G-B are recognized as part of the original State of Jammu and Kashmir as it existed before 26 October 1947 but an illegally occupied region until an accepted solution of the issue is found. Integration of PoK into Pakistan will give India a strong argument of Pakistan infringing the stipulations of the SC Resolutions.  In that case, Pakistan will lose the option of raising Kashmir issue at all international platforms and build a supporting opinion with the comity of nations.

In strategic terms, Pakistan has so far maintained PoK sort of a buffer along its eastern border with India. The immediate reaction of India in case of Pakistan integrating PoK will be a very short notice to Pakistan to withdraw its troops from PoK and G-B or face consequences of gravest nature that would imperil the very existence of that country. Pakistan is not at all in a position to put its existence at stake.

In 1953 Pakistan ceded nearly five thousand square kilometres of Aksaichin area to Beijing in return for building the Karakorum Highway. The deal stipulates that the status of the ceded area will be subject to the nature of the resolution of the Kashmir dispute between Pakistan and India. This rider was put on the deal given the protest India had made arguing that bartering away a part of the land within her jurisdiction was illegal and non-negotiable. Beijing knows that integration of PoK into Pakistan mainland would mean its continued friction with India and the world opinion would hardly lend its support to China’s standpoint in Kashmir. It is to be noted that in the course of recent reorganization scheme of the J&K region, India issued a formal warning to both Islamabad and Beijing that the two countries were in illegal occupation of part of her territory and she would not stop short of retrieving it.

In the final analysis, whether Pakistan integrates PoK or not, India has made up her mind to recover PoK and with that put an end to Pakistan using it as launching pad for terrorist agenda in the Indian part of Kashmir. India has to remain in battle readiness for her PoK mission, the time for which will be of her choosing.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

KN Pandita

Former Director of the Centre of Central Asian Studies, Kashmir University.

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