Prime Minister Imran Khan’s move to unveil the so-called new ‘political map’ of Pakistan by including the entire erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir as well as Junagadh in Gujarat may be an exercise to appease the domestic political sentiments but the move is fraught with serious implications. And none of them are good for Pakistan.
Such maps were published in 1947-48 when Mohammed Ali Jinnah was Pakistan’s first governor general. But the Islamic Republic had to rework the map that then had also included East Pakistan or the present day Bangladesh.
The so-called new political map released by PM Imran Khan sounds a death knell to the self-determination movement among separatists in Kashmir Valley as Islamabad has now co-opted Jammu and Kashmir, leaving no space for either plebiscite or independent Kashmir. This does not come as a surprise to Kashmir watchers in New Delhi as both self-determination and so-called freedom struggle was a ruse for cross border terror activities.
By showing the northern areas of Gilgit-Baltistan as part of Jammu and Kashmir, Islamabad’s promise of greater autonomy to this mountainous region stands nullified as the region has been merged with predominantly Sunni regions of Mirpur and Muzaffarabad as also the Valley.
However, the impact of PM Khan’s cartographic hallucination on India-Pakistan ties is very significant. By reopening the 1947-48 maps, Pakistan has given up on bilateralism of 1972 Shimla Agreement and 1999 Lahore Declaration – the two agreements that committed both nations to resolving bilateral disputes bilaterally – and paved a way for unilateralism. Does Imran Khan’s ‘Naya Pakistan’ also want to give up other bilateral pacts too? Like the bilateral 1960 Indus Water Treaty that allows waters of Indus, Chenab and Jhelum to be used by Pakistan while allocating Beas, Ravi and Sutlej waters to India?
While the Indian government has dismissed the new Pakistan map as a “political absurdity”, the map opens up the route for unilateralism by India should it choose to invoke it in future as Islamabad has indulged in unilateralism by issuing a new map that depicts territories firmly under Indian control as Pakistani territory.
But the map is also telling commentary about Pakistan’s relationship with its ‘iron brother’ China that has been engaged in a standoff with India for the last three months in East Ladakh. PM Khan, who is often accused of reducing Pakistan as a client-state of Xi Jinping’s China, has not only kept Shaksgam Valley and Aksai Chin out of its cartographic expansion but also left this frontier undefined to let China draw the line on the map.
It is quite evident that Pakistan has followed Nepal. Kathmandu had issued a map to emphasise its illegal claims on Lipulekh, Limiyadhura and Kalapani in India’s Uttarakhand on 21 May 2020. It is not mere coincidence that both Pakistan and Nepal are close allies of Beijing with the latter pumping in money in form of infrastructure aid to prop up both regimes.
Although India has no desire to either expand its territorial claims or give up on bilateralism vis-a-vis Pakistan, the map reflects the frustration within the Imran Khan government over its inability to get the international community to side with Islamabad on the Kashmir issue after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 last year.
Pakistan watchers also see the move as a response to the rise of India in the comity of nations, particularly after the Indian troopers stood up to an aggressive People’s Liberation Army in Ladakh, particularly the bloody clash at Galwan on June 15. The larger question on how to deal with India is part of regular interlocution between foreign offices of China and Pakistan.