Geopolitical Chessboard: India’s Role In Gilgit Baltistan’s Security Landscape – OpEd


Gilgit Baltistan (GB) stands out as an unparalleled natural beauty that has great geostrategic importance. It is situated in the northern area of Pakistan and bordering with China and Afghanistan. Its strategic location makes it a main gateway to Central Asia, the Middle East, and South Asia. It is an important crossroads for trade routes connecting South Asia, Central Asia, and China. The Karakoram Highway (KKH) passes through the region to connect Pakistan with China’s Xinjiang province. The region also serves as a gateway for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), enhancing trade and connectivity between the two countries, and is considered a hub for trade and economic activities.

Historically, Gilgit Baltistan was ruled by various dynasties in ancient times.  In the early 19th century, it was a part of the Sikh Empire under Maharaja Ranjit Singh but later fell under British control following the empire’s decline. In 1846, the Treaty of Amritsar ceded Gilgit to the Dogra Dynasty of Jammu and Kashmir, where it remained under Dogra rule for a century. However, in 1947, amidst India and Pakistan’s independence from British rule, Gilgit-Baltistan became embroiled in conflict. A rebellion by the Gilgit Scouts led to the region’s incorporation into Pakistan, though it lacked full constitutional status and was controlled by the federal government.

Over time, the region saw various administrative changes, including limited autonomy granted in 1970 and administrative reforms introduced by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1974. In 2009, it was renamed Gilgit Baltistan and granted provincial status, albeit with significant power vested in the Gilgit Baltistan Council. Therefore, efforts for further autonomy continued, with the 2018 Gilgit Baltistan Executive Order transferring powers from the council to the Gilgit Baltistan Assembly. Despite promises of provincial status, no clear constitutional status has been granted, leading to concerns among locals about their rights and representation. These concerns were exacerbated by Pakistan’s introduction of a new tax regime in 2022, reinforcing the perception of uncertainty regarding Gilgit Baltistan’s constitutional status.

Gilgit Baltistan also holds significant importance for India due to its strategic location as it shares a border with the Indian-administered region of Jammu and Kashmir. The region’s proximity to China and its connection to the Karakoram Highway make it an area of interest for India’s security and geopolitical considerations. Additionally, its significance is heightened by serving as the gateway to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), along with its broader geostrategic and economic importance. India claims Gilgit Baltistan as part of its territory due to its geostrategic importance. India believes that Gilgit Baltistan, along with the rest of Jammu and Kashmir, is an integral part of India and it is illegally controlled by Pakistan and should be returned to Indian control. Moreover, India maintains a keen interest in gaining authority over the Gilgit Baltistan region to facilitate connectivity with Afghanistan and the Central Asian Republics.

Furthermore, India is alleged to be backing certain sub-nationalist factions, with the purported aim of inciting local youth against Pakistan by leveraging the region’s constitutional status. Several security concerns are relevant to the region. These include cross-border infiltration, terrorism, and separatist movements supported by India. Therefore, the rugged terrain and porous borders make it challenging to maintain strict control over the area. Moreover, the geopolitical dynamics and territorial disputes in the region contribute to the security challenges. Despite these obstacles, the Pakistani government is striving to address these concerns diligently to safeguard the safety and stability of Gilgit Baltistan.

Likewise, Pakistan has implemented a various measure to counter extremism in Gilgit Baltistan including security strengthening through the deployment of security forces to maintain law and order and prevent extremist activities. Additionally, Pakistan has focused on promoting education to foster critical thinking and awareness among youth. Dialogue and engagement are emphasized to address grievances and resolve conflicts peacefully, alongside development initiatives aimed at the socio-economic uplift of people. Community participation and engagement are encouraged to discourage radical ideologies and promote peace. These efforts collectively aim to create a peaceful and inclusive environment in Gilgit Baltistan.

In recent years, Gilgit Baltistan has witnessed significant development projects aimed at improving infrastructure, connectivity, and living standards. Notable initiatives include the expansion of the Karakoram Highway, the construction of the Diamer-Bhasha Dam, and the implementation of a tourism development plan. Additionally, efforts have been made to enhance healthcare and education facilities, construct roads and bridges, and promote economic growth. These projects seek to boost socio-economic development, enhance quality of life, and capitalize on tourism and economic opportunities in the region.

In a nutshell, to ensure the security of Gilgit Baltistan, the Pakistan government should take several proactive steps. This includes strengthening law enforcement by providing resources and training, improving intelligence sharing and coordination among security agencies, engaging with local communities to foster a sense of ownership in maintaining security and enhancing border management to prevent illegal activities. Furthermore, counterterrorism measures, socio-economic development initiatives, and community engagement programs are essential for long-term security and stability in the region. Through these efforts, the government can create an environment conducive to peace, harmony, and progress in Gilgit Baltistan.

Saima Afzal

Saima Afzal is an Islamabad-based analyst and holds an MPhil in Peace and Conflict studies.

One thought on “Geopolitical Chessboard: India’s Role In Gilgit Baltistan’s Security Landscape – OpEd

  • April 27, 2024 at 7:27 am

    Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) is a strategically important region which became part of Pakistan because of a British conspiracy led to its sabotaged occupation through a military coup staged in November 1947 by a British officer, Major William Brown who commanded the Gilgit Scouts when the Partition happened. Gilgit Baltistan since early 19th century was a part of the Sikh Empire under Maharaja Ranjit. Gilgit had come under Indian influence in the period from 1836 to 1842 when Maharaja Gulab Singh’s, General Zorawar Singh annexed it. The illegal China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes through this illegally occupied Indian area.
    The futuristic only logical option for Pakistan is to try and normalize relations with India starting with the resuming of trade. Pakistan stops its proxy war against India and forgets the Kashmir struggle as Kashmir since centuries has been part of India and will remain integral part of India.There is no comparision of development and education between Kasmir and the deprived GB under Pakistan rule. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have already started protests with the demand to be merged with their original Kashmir so it is only a matter of time that GB is back into its pre 1947 Kashmir.


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