In what may be seen as a move that will encourage India’s claim on Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir (PoK), the British Parliament has passed a resolution, condemning Pakistan’s recent decision to declare Gilgit-Baltistan as its fifth province.
The resolution said that the region is a legal and constitutional part of northern Indian province of Jammu and Kashmir, and an integral part of India. It also said that the region has been illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947.
Conservative Party leader Bob Blackman, who sponsored and tabled the motion in the House of Commons on March 23, told the Parliament that Pakistan is trying to annex the “already disputed” area. He thanked the House for passing the resolution, which states: “Gilgit-Baltistan is a legal and constitutional part of the state of Jammu & Kashmir, India, which is illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947, and where people are denied their fundamental rights, including the right of freedom of expression.”
The British Parliament also made clear that any attempts to change the demography of the region would be in violation of State Subject Ordinance. The House warned China over the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) project, saying in the resolution that the ‘forced and illegal construction’ of the corridor further aggravated and interfered with the disputed territory.
Britain passed the resolution just a week after a Chinese Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson said that Beijing was fully prepared to work with Islamabad in order to take forward the CPEC to benefit the people of the two countries. The Chinese official stressed that the main aim of the USD 51.5 billion project is to connect Kashgar in western Chinese province of Xinjiang with Gwadar port in the Pakistani province of Balochistan.
India is against the Chinese mega project as the corridor passes through a disputed region. Since 1947, New Delhi has ardently maintained that the entire province of Jammu and Kashmir, which includes areas currently under Pakistan occupation, is an integral part of the Union of India.
The Gilgit-Baltistan area is Pakistan’s northernmost administrative territory, which borders the disputed POK. Sartaz Aziz, the Foreign Affair Advisor of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, recently recommended Gilgit-Baltistan to give a provincial status. Pakistan, which has four provinces in form of Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, accepted Aziz’s recommendation and announced that Gilgit-Baltistan would soon be declared as the fifth province.
Indian foreign policy experts believe that the post-Brexit scenario in Europe has prompted Britain, which is responsible for the Partition of India in 1947 and also for the events preceding the Partition that lead to issues in Kashmir and the terrible relationship between New Delhi and Islamabad, to back India’s position on CPEC and also on Gilgit.
Currently, British Premier Theresa Mary May tries hard to maintain cordial ties with India, as she wants the South Asian powerhouse to boost trade ties with London. After Britain voted for leaving the European Union (EU) in 2016, India, which shares close ties with the UK, reassessed its relations with both sides. In an article published in eu.boell.org/en on August 8, 2016, Carnegie India Director and Consulting Editor (Foreign Affairs) of ‘The Indian Express’ daily C Raja Mohan said: “A weakening of either the EU or the UK is against India’s interests, which could lead to a revivification of the Commonwealth and to new multilateral free trade areas.” He also said: “As India works out the long term implications of the British vote to leave the EU for economic globalisation, regional institutions and international security, Delhi must extend strong solidarity with Britain and Europe, both of whom are likely to be weakened in the near term.”