Chinese presence in Gilgit Baltistan – by MEP Jürgen CREUTZMANN

Concerns are being voiced by the analysts on South Asian Security on the number of projects and works China has undertaken in the Gilgit Baltistan region of Pakistan. The Chinese footprints in the region as well as Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) are only growing larger. The Chinese projects in Gilgit-Baltistan region constitute more than half the Chinese projects, making it a cause for major concern because of the disputed status of the areas. The list of projects ranges from providing mobile connectivity services to building power projects, highways, and rail links.
The major projects are the $ 491 million Karakoram Highway up gradation including two MoUs on double -laning of the Karakoram highway as well as widening of the Jaglot-Skardu road, a joint venture between Pakistan Railways and Dongfang Electric Cooperation to establish a 750 km rail link, construction of a bridge on River Jhelum in Mirpur district, constructing bridges on the 167 km long and strategically important Gilgitskardu road, mining in the Chupurshan valley, management of Sust dry port 200 km away from Gilgit on the Karakoram highway, providing mobile communication services, financing of the $11.3 billion 4500 MW Diamer-Bhasha dam project, the Mangla Dam raising project, completion of the 969 MW Neelum-Jhelum hydropower project in Muzaffarabad district, undertaking of the Bhuni project in Gilgit Baltistan, Kohala project (1100 MW), Naltar project, and smaller projects in places like Phendar, Harpo, and Yurlbo project.
The Chinese projects however do little for the actual welfare of the people of the region and are just tools for serving the Chinese strategic interests. An analysis of Chinese mining activity in the region illustrates this point. More than 50 mining leases have been awarded to influential non-local entrepreneurs in Gilgit Baltistan in Pakistan while violating the United Nations universal declarations recognizing and strengthening the role of indigenous people and their communities. The resources here are being extracted by a Chinese company, without any independent monitoring for the past seven years. Even The Supreme Court of Pakistan has declared the Reko Diq mining lease case (Chaghai Hills Exploration Joint Venture Agreement) illegal, saying its execution was contrary to the provisions of various laws of the land.
The strategic connotations of China’s activities go far beyond the development claims. In one stroke, China is seeking to expand considerably the area over which it claims sovereignty and restrict or reduce the area over which India has been claiming sovereignty. This area where the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China has embarked on a policy of activism contrary to China’s proclamations of its interest in finding a peaceful solution to the border dispute and maintaining peace and tranquility in the border areas has assumed importance for China in view of its proximity to the Karakoram area in the Gilgit-Baltistan area of Pakistan where the Chinese have stepped their construction activities and inducted Chinese protection troops to protect the construction teams with the acceptance of the Government of Pakistan, which has been in illegal occupation of Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB).
At the same time, large military and civilian presence of Chinese personnel under the pretext of infrastructure development has raised broader security concerns for local communities as well as regional neighbour The Chinese efforts to access the Arabian Sea through Gwadar Port by developing road and railway links are being put under the scanner, especially after media reports since 2010 that the Chinese are stationing their troops and building critical infrastructure for strategic use.
It is not acceptable that China enlarges its interest in an area, which is “occupied” by Pakistan, claimed by India and a final solution is to be seen in the nearest future.

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