Jammu Kashmir’s importance is neither for Jammu, nor for Kashmir or even Ladakh. Its real importance is traceable to Gilgit-Baltistan only. All the foreign invasions on India throughout the history (of Saka, Hun, Kushans, and Mughals) have taken place only through Gilgit-Baltistan. Our ancestors really gauged the importance of Jammu and Kashmir. They knew well that if India has to be kept safe from repetitive incursions of foreign invaders, then the invaders had to be kept away from Hindu Kush beyond Gilgit-Baltistan.

At some point in history, America wanted to be saddled in Gilgit-Baltistan. Britain-the superpower till first half of 20th century-also tried to establish a base there. Pakistan always wanted the region. Even Russia was about to settle at Gilgit. In 1965, Pakistan had conspired to handover Gilgit region to Russia. Today, China is consolidating its position and rapidly spreading influence there.

It is the irony of history that when the entire world is too aware of the Geo-Strategic implications of Gilgit and knows the salience of the region, only India is yet to conceive its importance. It knows not that Gilgit-Baltistan actually belongs to India. Indian leaders neither know nor dare to own up the land of Gilgit. They cannot even comprehend that to be secure, India must have Gilgit-Baltistan, at any cost, under any circumstances.

As India strives to be a strong economic power in the world, the road connectivity from Gilgit to strategic places of the world assumes importance. Most parts of the globe can be reached through Gilgit. By road from Gilgit, Dubai is 5000 km, Delhi 1,400 km, Mumbai 2,800 km, Russia 3,500 km, Chennai 3,800 km, and London 8,000 km. When India was deemed the golden goose, all trade with the world used to pass through this silk route; around 85% of our population was connected through these routes. If we have Gilgit-Baltistan with us, we can travel to Central Asia, Eurasia, Europe and all of Africa by road. We entreat Pakistan for IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline. Tajikistan straddles just on the other side of Gilgit. If India has Gilgit, no need to persuade any country for gas resources.

Himalaya’s top nine mountain peaks are also among the tallest ten peaks of the world. Out of these ten, 2 peaks are in Gilgit-Baltistan. All these are Indian assets and resources. After China annexed and occupied the whole of Tibet in 1959, much of the water resources of India and South East Asian countries are lost to China. Therefore, the alternate water resource in Gilgit Baltistan is an important resource for India, especially Kashmir.

Surprisingly, Gilgit has 50-100 large Uranium and gold mines as per the reports of Mineral Department of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. That explains why China is trying so hard to clamp influence there. It is supporting Pakistan on every bend. We Indians are still blissfully unaware of the strategic significance of Gilgit-Baltistan. Pakistan’s neglect and torture of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan have turned them against Pakistan. Development of such strong anti-Pakistan tendencies over decades is very important from India’s perspective.

Indians talk of Kashmir but unfortunately Jammu, Ladakh and Gilgit-Baltistan totally escape their attention. Out of the total 79000 sq.km of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Kashmir accounts for mere 6000 km, and Jammu 900 km, while a vast area of 64,000 km belongs to Ladakh. Gilgit-Baltistan was never a part of Kashmir but always remained a part of Ladakh. This explains why India reorganised J&K into two autonomous Union territories- states-Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh. Pakistan now runs from pillar to post in the international sphere for Kashmir.

International community needs to ask Pakistan whether the parts of Jammu and Gilgit-Baltistan it has illegally occupied and hanging on for seven decades, was ever a part of Kashmir. Pakistan can’t answer. The life expectancy of the people of Gilgit-Baltistan and Ladakh remains the highest in the world. People here live longer than those inhabiting other area of the globe. That’s an added bonus.

(To be concluded)