Home Minister Minister Amit Shah's utterances in Parliament on Pakistan Occupied Kashmir bear scrutiny for their practicality, the messages they convey, and more importantly for what he has omitted to say. He reminded the Rajya Sabha this week that “Pakistan Occupied Kashmir is ours and no one can snatch it from us...” In almost the same breath he said that full statehood to Jammu and Kashmir would come at an appropriate time. Let us consider the second statement first. Ever since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019, four years ago, the state is nowhere near seeing an election, even though official noises to that effect have been heard intermittently. If in four years Delhi has been unable to conduct elections, how long do you think it will take for it to take back all of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir? Here is the unsaid part: Pakistan has gifted more than 5000 sq km of the area we consider our Jammu and Kashmir to the Chinese. They have signed agreements in 1963. The Chinese have been merrily building roads and infrastructure in those very areas, via their Belt and Road Initiative. All we have done is wring our hands helplessly, not much else.
Since 1994 there has been a resolution in Parliament which exhorts Pakistan to “vacate the areas of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir, which they have occupied through aggression.” To this date there are no signs that Pakistanis are stirring themselves on that count. If our politicians are serious they must set a timeline by which this can be accomplished. Many generations have grown up hearing the 1994 Parliamentary resolution; 30 years later, there has been no action taken on this. It must be gently pointed out here that even when uniformed Pakistanis crossed over via Kargil and occupied posts that we had abandoned, and under our very noses, we threw the might of the Indian armed forces — except perhaps for the Indian Navy — at the Himalaya-sized act of land grabbing. There was a BJP government in New Delhi then. Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, sagacious and wise, did not cross the LOC to recover each and every inch of land that we had ceded in days of yore. He listened to President Bill Clinton's counsel, that the time for redrawing boundaries was over.
The other day Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister no less, downplayed the difficulty in wresting back Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, saying that it wouldn't require much effort. The implication was that it would be more difficult for a knife to slice through butter. "We have just begun our journey of development in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. We will achieve our goal when we reach Gilgit and Baltistan," Singh declared recently. We need a time-frame for this, surely. At present if Rajnath were to go to Gilgit he would require some sort of Pakistani travel document. He knows that. We know that. The rest of the world knows that. Consider the trip that the American Ambassador to Pakistan, Donald Blome, made recently to Gilgit-Baltistan in an American show of solidarity with the Pakistanis, just to send a message out to New Delhi that time for map-making is over. There are, for example, 24 seats in the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly reserved for elected representatives from Occupied Kashmir. Largely symbolic, those seats will not be filled by duly elected representatives in the near future or even the distant future.
We applaud when the American Ambassador to India makes a trip with geopolitical overtones to Arunachal Pradesh or Siachen, where, it has been pointed out, we fight, India and Pakistan, like two bald men over a comb. But when the American Ambassador to Pakistan travels to PoK we deplore it. The reality is far grimmer. After the abrogation of Article 370, the Chinese responded by moving troops to areas they claim as their own and blunting by brute force our claims to those very areas. Yet, we have been assured that the Chinese have not taken even an inch of land that we claim is ours, even though our soldiers died validating our claims with their lives. Occasionally, just occasionally, before speaking, politicians should take their feet out of their mouths.