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Pakistan’s ‘upgrade’ of Gilgit-Baltistan is linked to the India-China stand-off

Pakistan seems to have tied itself into another knot. Just a day after waving its irrational map that claims Kashmir, Junagadh and other Indian territories at the virtual meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation on 15 September, it now seems that Islamabad, in a U-turn of the century, is about to incorporate Gilgit-Baltistan into a full-fledged province.

If we go by Pakistan’s stance of 73 years, the changes would mean that the Kashmir dispute is over, and the two neighbours had better take a sharp red pencil and turn the Line of Control into an international border. But nothing is ever simple where Pakistan is concerned. It seems Rawalpindi would like to have the cake and eat it too, particularly when the cake is made in China.

For one, the proposed ‘inclusion’ of Gilgit-Baltistan into Pakistan legalises the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) activity in the region, and allows Beijing greater ingress. Second, if the India-China conflict flares up, and Pakistan opens a second front, Kashmir would truly get internationalised, with the United Nations forced to step in; a process that has been foreseen by Indian officials but with one important difference – Pakistan gets to keep Gilgit-Baltistan, even as its multicoloured map expands its claims.

If there is a war, to the victor goes the spoils. And given the way the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) works, possession is nine points of the law. Things just got more interesting.

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