The strategic importance of Gilgit-Baltistan region is from the perspective of its location where it forms a tri-junction of connectivity providing access from Xinjiang region to Afghanistan and Central Asia

IMD’s weather forecast for Gilgit-Baltistan: For the first time ever, India Meteorological Department (IMD) has released a weather forecast for Gilgit-Baltistan region in ‘north-west’ subdivision of Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK). “This is in line with India’s policy that PoK is an integral part of the country,” experts say.

The official website of IMD has the weather forecast for the next five days for towns in Gilgit Baltistan region and Ghizer, in the far-west area of Ghakuch in PoK. On May 6, the forecast for Gilgit was uploaded on its website. There is a daily listing of weather conditions in other towns including Muzaffarabad, Skardu, Nilam, all of which are located in the Gilgit-Baltistan region.
An image grab from the IMD bulletin

New Delhi has always maintained that PoK is a part of India and in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly around 24 seats are reserved for PoK constituencies. Even after the abrogation of article 370 and the bifurcation of the state into Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir, the seats continue to be reserved for PoK.

According to IMD Director-General M Mohapatra, “ The areas under PoK are being mentioned under its daily weather bulletin, since last year when the bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir in the two union territories were announced by the government.”

However, sources said this is the first time that these towns are being mentioned under the Jammu and Kashmir subdivision.

India has lodged strong protests against Pakistan court’s order which has allowed elections to be conducted in Gilgit-Baltistan region.

In an official statement released by the Ministry of External Affairs, “A senior diplomat of Pakistan was demarched and lodged a strong protest against Supreme Court of Pakistan order on the so-called ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’.”

Adding, “Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, are an integral part of India by virtue of its fully legal and irrevocable accession was conveyed to him,” it said.

Experts’ Views

Brigadier NK Bhatia (Retd) says, “IMD’s decision to include weather forecast for PoK, Gilgit and Baltistan couldn’t have come too late. To include it in Indian forecast is primarily meant to send across a subtle message to the international community that the region continues to be disputed with India’s legitimate claims over the region. Basically, the inclusion of the region is a matter of perception and in today’s world perception counts.”

According to the Indian Army veteran, “Importantly, the message is as much to China which is developing the road connectivity through the region as part of the development of China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). China has overlooked the oppression of people of Gilgit-Baltistan by Pakistan to pursue its economic interests. It wouldn’t be too late to point to the complexity of China as well as Pakistan to suppression of their indigenous population, Uyghur and Shias who are both oppressed minorities and continue to suffer violation of their rights.”

The strategic importance of Gilgit-Baltistan region is from the perspective of its location where it forms a tri-junction of connectivity providing access from Xinjiang region to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

“India has always maintained its claims over the region, the last official statement being that of Indian Home Minister during debate on the revocation of Article 370 in the parliament in August 2019. He had categorically reiterated that PoK and Aksai Chin are part of Jammu and Kashmir,” Bhatia observes.

Says Dr Raj Kumar Sharma, Consultant, Faculty of Political Science, IGNOU, New Delhi, “The recent move by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) to include Gilgit-Baltistan and Muzaffarabad in its weather forecasts may be a new move but it is totally welcome and is in line with India’s stand that Jammu and Kashmir is part of India and certain areas are under illegal occupation of Pakistan.”

“Supreme Court of Pakistan had exceeded its jurisdiction and recently issued an order to allow general elections in Gilgit-Baltistan. These are desperate moves by Pakistan to change the status quo in the region after India abrogated Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir last year. Pakistan is also under pressure from China, whose CPEC passes through Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and China wants Pakistan to end the uncertainty over the political status of PoK,” Sharma opines.

According to him, “The issue of Kashmir is central to Pakistan’s identity as a theocratic state and despite its massive challenges like Coronavirus and severe economic problems; it will continue to hang on to this issue as the last straw to keep the sentiment of nationalism alive. India should stay alert and prepare for all the possibilities.”