- Locals expressed fear that Pakistan may cede GB to China
- The move could earn Pak hefty lease money that could help tide over its economic woes
- It could also trigger local protests in the region
Pakistan may cede Gilgit Baltistan (GB), a Pakistan-occupied Kashmir region (PoK) to China on lease to pay off its mounting debt. Chairman of Karakoram National Movement, Mumtaz Nagri also expressed fear that the isolated and neglected, Gilgit Baltistan could become a future battleground for the world powers to compete, reported Al Arabiya Post. The northern-most part of Kashmir borders China and Nagri expressed fear that Pakistan may cede GB to China. Nagri is arousing people and has asked them "not to be scared of ISI and be prepared to go to jail," Pakistani media reports have said.
Pakistan ceding GB that it illegally occupies would be a boon for China's South Asian expansion. It has made use of territory in the region that Pakistan ceded earlier and would like GB since the Karakorum is right on the trail of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Any such move could earn Pakistan hefty lease money that could help tide over its current economic woes. But this could also annoy the US to deny or delay the USD three billion bailouts from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). But, this could also blacklist Pakistan for the foreseeable future from getting funds from the IMF, World Bank and other global agencies, reported Al Arabiya Post.
A move on GB would not be easy, despite complete civil and military control from the federal government and extremely limited powers given to the local administration. For, it could trigger local protests as the population already feels short-changed by the way CPEC has bypassed GB at Islamabad's behest when it comes to development projects. Pakistani media reports said that GB has a dwindling population, able-bodied people migrating with their families wherever they get work and poor living conditions. One report alarmingly states that nine per cent of all suicides in Pakistan occur in GB.
Despite providing power to the rest of the country, Gilgit-Baltistan has just two hours of power available, because the region is not part of Pakistan's national grid. In addition to this, it suffers food shortages and has no control over its hydropower or other resources. With such socio-economic conditions prevailing in GB, there could be trouble from a desperate population. On the other hand, the US, smarting under a chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan last year, and in no mood to quit the region, wants to prevent this likely Chinese expansion into South Asia and instead, may want an outpost of its own, reported Al Arabiya Post.
Bob Lancia, a US Congress candidate for Rhode Island, said, "The US could have benefited in Afghanistan if Gilgit-Baltistan was in India and Balochistan was independent," reported Al Arabiya Post. (An) "Indian controlled Gilgit Baltistan would also be a major blow to America's number one rival, China, and China's belts & roads initiative, by denying China direct access to ports on the Arabian Sea," Lancia said in a June 8 report widely carried in the US.
Lancia said that the US failed to exit from Afghanistan had much to do with not having India as a partner, reported Al Arabiya Post. Lancia is a former member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives. He also took to Twitter to focus on India's strategic location and geopolitical prowess as a player in ensuring the interests of South Asia on the global map. He said that if Balochistan was an independent country, the US could have used it for supplying US forces in Afghanistan instead of depending on Pakistan, reported Al Arabiya Post.