Pakistan is planning to declare the strategic Gilgit-Baltistan region also known as the Northern Areas as its fifth Province, a move that may raise concerns in India as it borders the disputed Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
A committee headed by Advisor of Foreign Affairs of Pakistan, Sartaj Aziz had proposed giving the status of a Province to Gilgit-Baltistan.
Constitutional amendment would be made to change the status of the region, through which the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes.
India opposes the CPEC precisely because it passes through areas that it considers part of its territory.
Jammu and Kashmir has an international border with China in the north and east, and the Line of Control separates it from the Pakistani-administered territories of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan in the west and northwest respectively. The state has special autonomy under Article 370 of the Constitution of India.
The entire State of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India in 1947. A part of Jammu and Kashmir has been under illegal occupation of Pakistan.
At present, Pakistan has four provinces—Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.
Gilgit-Baltistan is treated as a separate geographical entity by Pakistan.
Gilgit-Baltistan has a regional Assembly and an elected Chief Minister.
It is believed that China’s concerns about its unsettled status prompted the move, which could signal a historic shift in the country’s position on the future of the wider Kashmir region. India says Pakistan’s proposal on Gilgit-Baltistan entirely unacceptable.
Such a step will not camouflage the illegality of Pakistan’s occupation of parts of Jammu and Kashmir and the gravely concerning and serious human rights violations there (in the Northern Areas), as well as denial of democracy to the people there.