India has recently asked Pakistan to vacate illegally occupied areas of Jammu and Kashmir (read Pakistan Occupied Kashmir) which is a bold and realistic move, keeping in view the fact that mention of PoK had been missing in India’s responses to Pakistan’s provocations on the issue. The present government has shown the political intent to include the narrative from PoK in the debate over J&K. A package worth Rs 2,000 cr will soon be announced by PM Narendra Modi’s government for refugees from PoK. PoK is divided in two parts which includes Gilgit Baltistan and what Pakistan calls Azad Kashmir. Both these areas are not constitutionally part of Pakistan and it maintains that a plebiscite should be held in the state of J&K. But, Pakistan has systematically changed the demography of Shia dominated Gilgit Baltistan by settling Sunni Muslims from mainland, leading to anti-Shia violence in the region. Pakistan has also been exploiting regional resources in the Gilgit region along with its all weather friend, China. No royalty is paid to Gilgit by Pakistan for using its resources like water and minerals while the region is fighting chronic under-development.
By talking of PoK and Baluchistan during his Independence Day address to the nation, PM Modi has again shown that India is ready to change its ‘restrained’ Pakistan policy. In Baluchistan as well, Pakistan has been exploiting regional resources without giving due share to the Balochis. The secular outlook of the Balochis is being changed by Pakistan which is allowing banned terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Toiba to operate in Balochistan to weaken their nationalist aspirations. Pakistan military has abducted many and killed countless in Baluchistan, having even used its own Air Force against the people of Baluchistan. If Pakistan can brutally exploit and kill its own Muslim citizens in Gilgit Baltistan and Baluchistan, it hardly has any credentials to call J&K a ‘Muslim’ problem. It is right move by the Indian government to increase its outreach to people of PoK and include their neglected narrative in the J&K debate.