Meanwhile in Islamic Republic of Pakistan occupied Gilgit-Baltistan, Taller than Himalaya’s, Deeper than Indian Ocean, Sweeter than Honey, Iron Brother, the Peoples Republic of China largesse is not appreciated by the freedom yearning Balwaristanis.
Senge Hasnan Sering, President of the Institute for Gilgit-Baltistan Studies besides views on P.R. Chinese trade and investment, views on Oppression by the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, how things are better in Jammu and Kashmir than in Pakistan Occupied J&K and yearning of the Balti’s to be liberated and rejoin India:
Many hardliners opposed to India in J&K try to show things as being better on the other side
I can't comment on what they say but nothing's further from the truth. People of GB want what Indian Kashmiris have -- membership of parliament, special status, democratic rights, right to choose our own government, etc. Even pro-Pakistani leaders, talk about how Indian Kashmiris have both special status and benefits of Indian judicial, political and economic institutions.
So how does the average local from GB see this as?
The people in GB are tired of being treated like Pakistan's colony. It uses our resources but doesn't give any rights to locals. Forget rights, persecution fills us with fear. Even the mention of creating special enclaves for Kashmiri Pandits has led to so much outrage, in GB we've so much unquestioned Pakistani influx. We live in a state of siege.
Much of this persecution is also perpetuated through non-state players?
Yes. In the recent past sectarian attacks have increased manifold in GB. As the Pakistan state weakens, the Pakistani military is increasing Islamisation through the Jamat-e-Islami, Taliban, Lashkar-e-Dawat, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Lashkar-e-Janghwi to enhance strategic interests. These Takfiri groups hate Shias who face persecution along with Christians, Ahmadis and Hindus.
What is your view on the huge Chinese investment in GB?
Since the building of the Karakoram Highway in 1966, China has steadily been increasing its stranglehold on GB. The Chinese see the region as their access way to link to Muslim countries. Once it reaches the Gwadar port, the Persian Gulf is not too far away.
Are locals happy with such Chinese presence?
What choice do they have? Given how miserably Pakistan has failed in providing us with connectivity, this is seen as a good thing. There are major issues with the Chinese over mineral exploration, land compensation and who controls the revenue and the royalties of the dams. And it not like we're getting jobs. Chinese bring their own labourers and locals are not given work. This is resented.
The list of foreign powers wanting to dabble in GB is long
Every major player in the world is aware of GB's location and its geo-strategic interest. India China, the EU, UK, US, Russia as well as Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Indonesians, Japanese and Koreans are making their own moves along with the Australians. Currently of course its China which is benefitting the maximum from GB.
Does India have role to play?
Of course, it does. Its baffling why it chooses to just play a wait-and-watch game. No one's asking India to go to war with Pakistan. But it just can't sit and hope for things to work out. As Pakistan gets Talibanised, it will bear the brunt. India should act before the fire of radicalism reaches it. Either partner with people of GB or work with the international community as well actors like Iran which has an interest in countering Taliban.
Legally you're Indian. But you need a visa to come here
Constitutionally I'm Indian. India should either forget us or do something. For 60 years we have been physically in control of Pakistan while India has constitutional capacity. How long can we live like this?
Do you go back home to GB?
I could go. (laughs) But I'm not sure they'll let me get out again ever.
Who is Senge Hansan Sering?
The Skardu- born engineer, Senge Hasnan Sering, has a Development Studies postgraduate from England. The cultural activist has been instrumental in reviving the indigenous Balti script, and has also been a fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies & Analysis, Delhi. Settled in the US since 2003, he runs the Washington-based Gilgit Baltistan Institute
People of Gilgit-Baltistan want what the Indian Kashmiris have: Senge Hasnan Sering