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Pak's Gilgit lease to China catches Indian army unawares

Indian army has been caught unawares by the latest proposal of Pakistan to lease Gilgit-Baltistan to China, forcing commanders to go into a huddle to figure out its implications for our country.

chandigarh Updated: Feb 23, 2012 11:54 IST
Arun Joshi
Arun Joshi
Hindustan Times

The latest proposal of Pakistan to lease Gilgit-Baltistan to China for 50 years has caught the Indian army unawares. And the commanders have gone into a huddle to figure out what it means for India.

The presence of People's Liberation Army personnel in Gilgit-Baltistan, earlier part of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, had been exposed by the New York Times and later substantiated by army commanders here, but what was not known was that the area would be all but governed by China.

"We had no clue about the lease part of the story," said an army officer privy to the developments along the borders in Jammu and Kashmir to Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity.

US think tank Middle-East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) has analysed this situation.

Sources said that the army was now again putting on the board the possibility of twin attacks by China and Pakistan - that the two friendly countries may attack India and Jammu and Kashmir could be the battlefield. The army documented the possible scene three years ago, but not many had lent credence to the possibility at that point of time.

Talking to Hindustan Times, minister for transport Qamar Ali Akhoon said that this de facto takeover of Gilgit-Baltistan "would hurt our strategic interests. We must wake up to the strategic dangers of such a nexus between China and Pakistan".

Akhoon is from Kargil, facing which is the Gilgit-Baltistan area. "This is a matter of concern for us all because that area is part of Jammu and Kashmir. We are afraid that the Chinese presence would hurt our ethos, culture and ravage our landscape," he said.

Apart from the military strength that the region will receive, the area will open ways for China to set up its naval base in Gwadar in Balochistan.

In the past, Pakistan had been kind to China when it had ceded PoK's 5,180 square km for the Karokaram highway in 1963.

The Chinese presence in these areas already poses a threat to the Siachen glacier, the highest battleground of the world.

First Published: Feb 23, 2012 11:29 IST