New map and ground realities
So, this is a political map, not the official one, where the government has asserted its longstanding position on Kashmir and Sir Creek disputes. In fact, the new map, approved by the cabinet on August 5 (the first anniversary of annexation of India-held Kashmir in the wake of revocation of articles 370 and 35A of the Indian constitution by the Modi government), shows people’s aspiration and reflects Pakistan’s principled stance on the Kashmir dispute and conflicts involving India. Moreover, India has unveiled months ago (Oct 31 last year exactly) claiming the entire disputed area, including Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, as its integral territory, which has been rejected by Pakistan, China and Nepal. The political map, however, is just a symbolic move, so it is quite early to state that the map is the ‘first step’ towards resolution of the seven decades old dispute of Kashmir. The political map, however, strengthens Pakistan’s position that Pakistan wants a political solution to the dispute and it believes the dispute can be settled in accordance with the UN resolutions and aspirations of the people of held Kashmir. On the other hand, India has propagated that the map amounts to the annexation of Azad Kashmir, whereas the fact is that the map reflects Pakistan’s claim on the territory and not that the region is part of Pakistan.
The map shows Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir a one territory, even though the region is run under an autonomous administration. Moreover, now the government calls India-held Jammu and Kashmir as Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir whose “final status is to be decided in line with relevant UNSC resolutions”. Also, the international boundary on the eastern side has been extended up to the undefined frontier to demarcate Indian territory of Himchal Pardesh from the disputed part of Jammu and Kashmir, which can be defined after the Kashmir dispute is settled. The map highlights the disputes, which our past governments had shelved, such as Junagadh and Manavadar, the two states which were illegally occupied by India right after Partition. The map includes Siachen and Sir Creek, which India is trying to occupy. On the domestic front, the new map shows erstwhile Fata as part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. The release of the map is a good move, but Pakistan needs to interntionalise the Kashmir and other disputes with diplomatic vigor. Prime Minister Imran Khan has already raised the Kashmir dispute at every possible international forum, and this must continue.
Food for thought