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Gilgit-Baltistan: Victim of the Great Game

  • Amjad Ayub Mirza
  • 4th November, 2022 10:25:14 AM
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It was on November 1, 1947 that the state flag of Jammu and Kashmir at the Gilgit Residency was taken down and replaced by that of Pakistan. The irony is that the flag of the state of Jammu Kashmir was taken down not as a result of a popular rebellion but due to a conspiracy engineered by the former political agent of Gilgit Agency, Major William Alexander Brown.

The decision to hand over Gilgit Agency to Pakistan was made even before the inception of Pakistan in August 1947. During a meeting in Peshawar between Major William and the former political agent of Gilgit agency, Colonel Roger Bacon in July 1947, three months before Pakistan attacked the state of Jammu Kashmir on October 22, 1947, a conspiracy was hatched.

Once the instrument of accession to India was signed between Maharaja Hari Singh and Lord Mountbatten, Indian troops were airlifted to Srinagar to fight and push back the invading Pakistan army and the mercenary tribal invaders.

At the time of the signing of the instrument of accession to join the Republic of India, Pakistani troops were only 4 miles away from the gates of Srinagar. However, once the Indian troops landed at the Srinagar airport, they swiftly pushed the foreign invaders back and a total victory for the Indian army seemed the writing on the wall.

This development was not in tune with the plan of the British since they were concerned with the southward expansion of the Soviet Union and the situation in East Turkistan, today's Xinjiang province of China, where armed struggle for territorial supremacy between local proxies of Russia, China and the British had become indecisive.

Since the 1860s and 1870s, both Russia and British were locked in a struggle to capture the trade routes to central Asia. Russia wanted access to the warm waters and deep sea ports in Persia and the Indian Ocean while the British wanted to push their sphere of political influence to Persian and central Asia to contain Russian expansion.

Three wars were fought between the Afghans and the British. Finally, ending up formally dividing Afghanistan into the North West Frontier Province by the Boundary Commission of British India and the Durand Line was drawn. Therefore, Afghanistan became a buffer state between Russia and British India.

For Russia, Gilgit Agency was the key to getting access the Indian Ocean and for the British it was a path to get hold of the central Asian republics. Hence, the forceful and illegal accession of Gilgit Agency, the attack on the state of Jammu Kashmir and even the partition of India by creating West and East Pakistan was all part of the British plan to a) deny Russia access to the Indian ocean and the Persian Gulf and b) to deny India access to central Asia.

In 1935, the British forced Maharaja Hari Singh to agree to sign a 60-year lease according to which the British would be in charge of the trade routes and defence in that part of the world. However, on August 1, 1947 the lease lapsed because of the clause in the India Independence Act according to which all agreements between the British and the 560 odd princely states were revoked.

As the Indian troops began to liberate the territories occupied by Pakistan, Major William Brown who was leading the Gilgit Scouts staged a coup and arrested the governor Brigadier Ghansara Singh during the night of October 31 and the early hours of November 1, 1947.

At the time, Colonel Roger Bacon was serving as the political agent of Khyber Agency bordering Afghanistan. He had also played a crucial role in brokering the agreement between the Pakistan army and the tribal to attack the State of Jammu and Kashmir on October 22, 1947.

The governor of the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) was Sir George Cunningham and the Commander-in-Chief of Pakistan army was General Sir Douglas Gracey. All communication between the Gilgit Agency's political agent and the government of Pakistan was sent through Peshawar. This shows that all communication was seen by the British governor and the political agent, who was also stationed in Peshawar, the capital NWFP.

Once the coup in Gilgit Agency was successful, a telegram was sent from Peshawar to the government of Pakistan in the then capital Karachi, that Gilgit Agency had acceded to Pakistan.

The recent statement issued by the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh that our final destination is Gilgit is the sweetest thing our ears have listen to in a very long time.

The instrument of accession signed between our Maharaja Hari Singh and the then Governor General of India Lord Mountbatten included all parts of the State of Jammu and Kashmir that came under attack by Pakistan. Therefore, it included Gilgit Agency and the currently territories of Jammu Kashmir that remain to this day under the occupation of Pakistan.

The status of the above mentioned territories are recognised as disputed territories and United Nations resolutions call Pakistan the aggressor.

The retake of Pakistani occupied Jammu and Kashmir as well as Gilgit-Baltistan will bring a closure to the chapter of yesteryears' Great Game that Gilgit-Baltistan had been a victim of.

 

(Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza is an author and a human rights activist from Mirpur in PoJK. He currently lives in exile in the UK)

 

Source: IANS