Pakistan’s new map: Escalating conflict by cartographic assertion

August 13, 2020 5:14 PM

The main aim of Pakistan to alter its maps and include settled areas in its map as its own aims to question the territorial integrity and sovereignty of India.

Pakistan’s attempts to include it within its boundaries is neither logical nor feasible due to lack of a common land boundary between Junagarh and Pakistan.Pakistan’s attempts to include it within its boundaries is neither logical nor feasible due to lack of a common land boundary between Junagarh and Pakistan. (Representative image)

By Brig NK Bhatia

Pakistan on 4 August 2020, in a cannily crafted move, revealed a new political map of Pakistan subsuming new Indian territories within its domain. The timing and essence of the move was not lost on anyone, more particularly India, whose territories it has notionally subsumed into its boundaries. The timing of the move, coming on eve of first anniversary of India’s annulment of Article 370 and 35A of its constitution, granting special status to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), revealed Pakistan’s devious agenda to not only keep the pot boiling in J & K but also reveal its roguish mindset to escalate tensions by claiming territories of India.

Pakistan’s claims on Indian Territory pertain to three specific areas; Jammu and Kashmir, Sir Creek along Rann of Kutch and Junagarh and Manavadar, both in Saurashtra region of Gujarat and non-contiguous to Pakistan.

Jammu & Kashmir

Pakistan while unfolding the new map has claimed rights over complete Jammu and Kashmir, including Jammu and Ladakh regions, which so far it had never contested to be in dispute. It has also included Gilgit-Baltistan as the new area within Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan had never considered Gilgit-Baltistan as part of J&K and its subjects part of Pakistan, always referring it the region as Northern Areas under administrative control of Pakistan’s Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas and providing its people only limited autonomy until Pakistan Supreme Court ordered it to hold elections in the region. Accordingly, elections were held on 24 June 2020 amid protests by India through the issue of a ‘demarche’ in May 2020 as India has always considered it part of its legitimate territory as per the resolution passed by its parliament in 1994 by consensus. (Refer FE dated 19 May 2019: India ratcheting up claims over PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan not without basis).

Similarly, its claim over Ladakh and Jammu, never made earlier are meant to escalate tensions and destabilise the region. In fact Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah MahmoodQureishi made Pakistan’s intent clear when he stated “Our goal is Srinagar”, thereby indicating that Pakistan’s support to terrorism in J&K will continue while hapless people of J&K continue to suffer the consequences of Pakistan’s intent to continue with its volatile intentions.

Sir Creek

Genesis of Sir Creek dispute date back to 1908 between then Sind and Kutch rulers. Sir Creek is a tidal estuary at the mouth of Arabian Sea and also determines the boundary between Gujarat and Sind areas of India and Pakistan. It has a direct bearing on the as yet un-delineated maritime boundary between India and Pakistan because the definition of the land boundary in the Sir Creek area will in turn, determine where the maritime boundary intersects the coastline.

Pakistan claims half of Rann of Kutch and assert 24th parallel as the boundary while India counters Pakistan’s claim to state that boundary runs along the northern boundary of Rann of Kutch. The dispute had resulted in clashes in 1965 and subsequent reference of the matter to the UN. A Tribunal is known as the Indo-Pakistani Western Boundary Case Tribunal was formed that announced its Award on 19 February 1968, upholding 90% of India’s claim to the entire Rann, conceding small sectors to Pakistan.

Pakistan claims that the tribunal did not discuss the Sir Creek issue and thus the dispute continues to linger on. Pakistan claims Creek’s eastern bank as boundary and therefore the entire Creek. While India wants boundary to be the centre line passing through Sir Creek. The dispute has, therefore, impact on establishing the land from which a maritime boundary may be determined.

Between 1997 and 2012 twelve rounds of talks have been held between India and Pakistan to reach an agreement, that has remained elusive. As per Gen VK Singh, then MOS, Ministry of External Affairs, a statement in Parliament on 13 February 2019, “In December 2015, it was agreed to start a Comprehensive Bilateral Dialogue. This included the Sir Creek issue. However, the terror attack on the Airbase in Pathankot in January 2016 and Pakistan’s continued support to cross border terrorism against India has prevented the holding of any structured bilateral dialogue.”

The failure of talks has resulted in non-determining of Exclusive Economic Zone and frequent apprehension of fishermen of both countries leading to their long detentions in prisons and human misery.

Junagarh and Manavadar

The accession of Junagarh to India has been a settled issue. Pakistan’s attempts to include it within its boundaries is neither logical nor feasible due to lack of a common land boundary between Junagarh and Pakistan.

Pakistan’s claim on Junagarh emerges out of the intent of its ruler at the time of independence, Muhammad MahabatKhanji III to join Pakistan, at the behest of its then Dewan (Premier) Shah Nawaz Bhutto, who was the father of late Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, Prime Minister of Pakistan. However, the circumstances of the period and the unfolding of events settled the issue in favour of India.

Similarly Bantava-Manavadar, one of the principalities of Junagarh also had expressed his desire to join Pakistan but circumstances similar as Junagarh precluded any such move.

Pakistan’s claims over the areas, now a district in Gujarat is nothing but an attention seeking exercise aimed at muddling the situation.

Impact of New Political Maps

The main aim of Pakistan to alter its maps and include settled areas in its map as its own aims to question the territorial integrity and sovereignty of India.

Pakistan is aiming to change the discourse of conflict from Kashmir and escalating it to include regions of Jammu and Ladakh. It further aims to sow seeds of conflict by renewing claims over areas which were amalgamated at the time of Independence into Indian Union.

Pakistan has never been known for a stable outlook in pursuit of its diplomatic goals. It’s goalposts keep changing frequently to please its domestic polity that is influenced by religious dogmatists and hardliners. Resultantly more often than not it finds itself in untenable situations.

The current altering of maps to include territories in the Indian mainland may be one such situation where Pakistan may find it difficult to justify the folly of its actions. It may soon realise that the cartographic assertion may land it in a precarious situation on its western borders where Pashtuns refuse to recognise its claims on the Durand line.

(The author is an Indian army Veteran. Views expressed are personal).

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