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Gultari and the Northern Areas

Gultari and the Northern Areas

Author: Malika Baltistani
Publication: Dawn, Pakistan
Date: August 28, 2002
URL: http://www.dawn.com/2002/08/28/letted.htm#5

This refers to your editorial 'Clash in Gultari' (Aug 25) concerning the recent infantry and air attacks by the Indian forces in Gultari area.

The press and the ISPR have been treating Gultari as part of Kashmir which is not correct. Actually it is part of Gilgit and Biltistan (Northern Areas).

We, the people of Northern Areas, don't favour the idea of Gultari being part of Kashmir or the Kashmir conflict as being regarded by the authorities in their statements and their correspondence with the UN, international community and organizations.

However, if such is the case then we would have been provided with fundamental and democratic rights. For the last 54 years, we have been involved in the Kashmir conflict against our free will and denied constitutional rights, including representation in the elected House.

We are subjected to the worst violation of our fundamental rights whereas the people of the Indian- held the Azad Kashmir enjoy constitutional status as well as other rights. Such geographical misprints have only been adding to our grief.

(Malika Baltistani, Chairperson, Gilgit Biltistan National Alliance)


Clash in Gultari
Author: Editorial
Publication: Dawn, Pakistan
Date: August 25, 2002

Thursday's Indian infantry and air attack on a Pakistani post in northern Kashmir takes the military stand-off between the two countries to a slightly higher notch. So far, since India began massing its troops along the Line of Control and the international border, neither side has used its air force in skirmishes.

This was the first time since the Kargil clashes of 1999 that India used its air force in a military operation against Pakistan. The Indian aim apparently was to capture a post at a height of 17,000 feet in the Gultari sector, 30 kilometres from Skardu. The Indians failed to capture the post and withdrew, leaving behind several casualties. Thanks to the restraint shown by Pakistan, which only took defensive action, the clash remained localized.

India has denied that any such action took place at all. However, this is not the first time that the Indians have done so. As a Pakistan army spokesman pointed out, there was a clash in July also, but India had denied it. Later, New Delhi sacked one of its commanding officers.

For the world at large, the Gultari clash serves to highlight the danger that the massing of troops along the border and the unsolved Kashmir issue pose to peace in South Asia. More specifically, the ground-air action in the snowy heights shows how things could have gone out of hand if Pakistan had also called in its air force for retaliatory action. Nobody then could have predicted the consequences that would have followed.

The armies of the two countries have now been in a state of eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation since December. India began massing its troops on Pakistan's border in a threatening posture after the terrorist attack on the Indian parliament building. By May, the situation had become so critical that the world feared a nuclear holocaust in South Asia. Following the diplomatic initiatives taken by powers friendly to both, especially the US, a war was averted. But the danger still persists, because the two armies continue to face each other in battle formation along the common border.

During the diplomatic drive launched by the major powers, India remained intransigent in its stand that it was opposed in principle to a dialogue with Pakistan. This continues to be its position, on the pretext that Islamabad has failed to stop "infiltration" across the LoC. But Pakistan's efforts to control extremist groups and elements are now widely recognized. Indeed, on his last visit to New Delhi, US Secretary of State Colin Powell had asked India to reciprocate Pakistan's gestures and take de- escalatory steps to defuse tension and start negotiations.

One hopes that during his talks in New Delhi, US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage would also have stressed upon the Indian leadership the need for starting a dialogue with Pakistan on all outstanding issues, including Kashmir, because there is no other way to reduce tension and normalize relations between the two countries. The incident has proved how easy it is in the present state of tension to blunder into something more horrendous.

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