Although a delayed response, but the Prime Minister Narendera Modi for the first time shifting the focus of India towards the atrocities of Pakistan on innocent residents of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Balochistan that were witnessing a spate of unrest is strategically important to corner Pakistan. So far, Pakistan had pitched up its campaign of accusing India of indulging in human rights violations in Kashmir.
The bold decision of Modi to get tough with Pakistan on the issue of its troops killing hundreds of innocent people of these areas and the current uprising in PoK, Gilgit, Baltistan and Balochistan has come as a major shift in India’s policy towards Pakistan as for the past nearly 70 years India had remained silent on the issue while Pakistan left no stone unturned to malign India at various international forums.
Modi’s resolve to expose Pakistan has come at a time when China and Pakistan by implementing the China—Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) were actively engaged in strengthening their military infrastructure through PoK in a bid to dilute the claim of India over that area of Kashmir. China has planned to strengthen its military presence in the region by implementing the project.
The CPEC being constructed by China through the PoK to directly connect the strategic Karakoram region (near the Siachen glacier) with Rawalpindi by upgrading and laying a 1100 kms long highway and underground bridges is a direct interference of Beijing in the Indian territory under the illegal occupation of Pakistan. This has also exposed the double face of Beijing that has been issuing ‘stapled visa’ to residents of J&K on the plea of the state being disputed, but on the other hand was investing huge funds to strengthen its infrastructure in the Kashmir that was under the illegal occupation of Pakistan.
While safeguarding its strategic and economic interests through the CPEC, China was also providing an express highway to Pakistan military just near the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan. This will provide greater mobility to Pakistani troops in certain inhospitable parts of the LoC.
Upgrading the Gwadar port in Balochistan forms the crux of the CPEC project, as it is envisaged to be the link between China’s ambitious One Belt—One Road project.This is also aimed at China making itself more powerful in South Asia.
Protests against the CPEC have been witnessed in PoK, Balochistan, Gilgit and Baltistan where people fear that the project was causing ecological disaster in the area and increasing the presence of Chinese troops. As a result, Pakistan has created a separate security force for the safety of Chinese engineers and workforce engaged in implementation of the CPEC particularly in the PoK.
Residents of Gilgit and Baltistan are growing restive following military atrocities on the youth who have openly revolted against the oppressive attitude of Pakistan. Men, women and children of these areas were reportedly taking out processions and raising slogans against Pakistan that has illegally detained more than 500 youth.
Reports of unrest in Muzaffrabad, the main town of occupied Kashmir, have also been received. Many writers and thinkers of the area have either been put behind bars or hounded out of the country.
Killing and torture of innocent youth and political persons allegedly by Pakistani troops has increased in Balochistan where people were seeking liberation from the clutches of Pakistan. Residents of the area have refused to forget the point blank assassination of the Nawab of Bugti by Pakistani soldiers few years ago. His brutal murder added fuel to the fire in Balochistan. However, Pakistan has been accusing India of creating unrest in the area.
Coming back to the issue of CPEC, India regards portions of the CPEC project negatively as they pass through disputed territory which is claimed by India. Former Indian ambassador, Phunchok Stobdan, alleged that China and Pakistan intended to develop the corridor not just for its economic benefits, but also is motivated by the strategic intent of besieging India.
During the last year’s visit of Prime Minister Modi to China, the Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj reportedly told Chinese Premier Xi Jinping that projects passing through Gilgit and Baltistan are “unacceptable” as they require road construction in territory India regards as its own. However, China has dismissed India’s concerns by describing CPEC as a commercial project that would not target any third party.