China is using its military & economic power to develop infrastructure in Gilgit Baltistan (GB) in a bid to counter India’s plan of seizing the disputed region. New Delhi has frequently expressed its ambition to capture Gilgit Baltistan, which is a part of Pakistan-controlled-Kashmir, a region India considers an integral part of the country.
Concerned about India’s plan to re-take the disputed region of Gilgit Baltistan, Beijing has ramped up construction using its military power. Speaking to ANI, Senge H Sering, director of the Washington-based Institute of Gilgit Baltistan Studies said that China is concerned about India’s growing interest in acquiring control over Gilgit Baltistan.
‘’China knows that Gilgit Baltistan is a legal part of India and if the international community helps India then Pakistan will not find many friends to resist India’s advances. Starting Diamer Dam is China’s way of marking the territory. China is using military power to claim land in Aksai Chin and it is doing the same in Gilgit Baltistan by building mega infrastructure, he said.’’
In May, India announced that a plan was ready and it was prepared re-take all territories illegally occupied by Islamabad, including Gilgit Baltistan and Pakistan-controlled-Kashmir.
The construction of the Diamer Bhasha Dam kicked off on Wednesday by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. As reported by EurAsian Times earlier, the Diamer Bhasha Dam is a 4,500 Megawatt project and could easily be the biggest dam in the region.
According to experts talking to the EurAsian Times, control over the construction of Diamer dam will enable China to bring People’s Liberation Army troops to GB to strengthen Pakistan’s military and ward-off any Indian threats. Beijing could be one step away from creating a formal military base in Pakistan, the expert, who did not wish to be named, cautioned.
The updating road network in the name of facilitating the construction of the dam will help China move logistics to Gilgit must faster and could be a game-changer against India’s advancement towards GB.
Iran-Afghanistan Next Project for China
To further strengthen its control over Gilgit Baltistan, Beijing plans to rope in Iran into the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). As reported by EurAsian Times earlier, the $46 billion CPEC aims to link Pakistan’s southern Gwadar port in Balochistan on the Arabian Sea to China’s western Xinjiang region.
Since Gilgit Baltistan has a majority of Shia Muslims, roping in Tehran into CPEC could give China massive leverage. In fact, China does not intend to stop there and even make a push for Afghanistan to join the CPEC initiative.
China wants Pakistan’s proxies to have complete control in Afghanistan so they could form a nexus with Iran and Afghanistan to secure CPEC. Although it may seem like an anti-India and anti-Afghan campaign regionally, in the long run, this is to minimise space for the US in South and Central Asia.
No matter how much Beijing tries to exercise control over Gilgit Baltistan, Chinese ambitions could easily be washed over by mother nature. Experts such as Dr Amjad Ayub Mirza have expressed concern that the Diamer dam is being constructed over a highly seismic zone and any mega earthquake will have a devastating impact on the region.
India has repeatedly expressed opposition over the construction of Diamer Bhasha dam and maintains that GB is an integral and inalienable part of India. China has rejected India’s objection and says that the project is focussed on enhancing the development and welfare of the people.