‘Gilgit-Baltistan, South-Central Asia’s Socio-Economic Integration and Regional Politics’

By

Mumtaz Khan

Executive Director of the International Center for Peace and Democracy

Senge H. Sering

Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies

12 – 1pm, Tuesday 6th November 2012

Committee Room 2A, House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW

To attend please RSVP to: jamila.mammadova@henryjacksonsociety.org

Bordering Afghanistan, Tajikistan, China, India and Pakistan, and as part of the larger disputed state of Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan is one of the most politically sensitive regions in the world. It is also an important trade post on the ancient Silk Route, and recent statements by US Foreign Secretary Hilary Clinton on reviving the Silk Route have therefore brought Gilgit-Baltistan into the limelight.

Currently facilitating Chinese access to the markets and resources in Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Indian Ocean region and Africa, Gilgit-Baltistan has clear potential to connect Pakistan with Central Asia, and Afghanistan with India and beyond. Revival of the Silk Route can help transform this resource-rich region from being a battleground of three nuclear states into a hub for trade, economic integration and cultural exchange. Such a transformation could help boost tourism and bring prosperity to neighbouring Himalayan regions such as Ladakh, Nepal and Tibet.

Given this potential to bring stability and prosperity to a fragile region, what should be done to transform the expansion of Gilgit-Baltistan’s trade capacity from an idea into reality? Moreover, how can we then ensure that the opening of trade routes will translate into improved standards of living for local communities? As China’s role in South Asia increases with the possible withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan, more pressure is being put on the land, society and resources of Gilgit-Baltistan, making thorough consideration of a wide array of political, security, and economic sensitivities particularly timely.

By kind invitation of Lord Soley of Hammersmith, The Henry Jackson Society is pleased to invite you to a panel discussion with Mumtaz Khan, Executive Director of International Center for Peace and Democracy; and Senge H. Sering of the Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies. The speakers will discuss how closed borders, a lingering war and presence of armed forces and Taliban affiliated militants have impacted the religious, cultural and economic composition of Gilgit-Baltistan, and how the opening of trade routes could contribute towards greater stability in the region.

TIME: 12 – 1pm

DATE: Tuesday 6th November 2012

VENUE: Committee Room 2A, House of Lords, London SW1A 0PW

To attend please RSVP to: jamila.mammadova@henryjacksonsociety.org

Biographies

Mumtaz Khan is the executive director of the Toronto-based International Center for Peace and Democracy. He hails from Pakistan-controlled Kashmir and is an expert on Indo-Pakistani relations in the context of the Kashmir conflict. He has been closely examining the rise of Islamic extremism and militancy in Pakistan, China’s growing role in South Asia, and challenges to peaceful development in the region. He also represents the Kashmir-based All Parties National Alliance in Europe and North America.

Senge H. Sering hails from the disputed region of Gilgit-Baltistan. He holds a degree in textile engineering from the University of Engineering and Technology, Punjab, and a Masters degree in Development Studies from the University of East Anglia. During the 1990s he worked as a cultural activist and helped revive indigenous scripts in Baltistan. He also helped establish a non-profit organisation in the Shigar Valley to promote education and health services among local women. Later, he joined a project of the Aga Khan Foundation and worked in its monitoring, evaluation and research department. During that time, he was also associated with the Baltistan Cultural Foundation. In 2009, he was selected as a visiting fellow to the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Currently, he is managing the Institute for Gilgit Baltistan Studies, based in Washington DC. He is also a member of the board of directors of the Gilgit Baltistan National Congress.

 

Transcript 

Senge Sering

… Projects in Gilgit-Baltistan that’s part of there – as well as the rest of Pakistan. China has invested billions of dollars in Pakistan, in different sectors, in military as well as civil sectors. But then Gilgit-Baltistan also provides – next one please [in reference to the PowerPoint presentation] – so Gilgit-Baltistan also provides, if you look at that black line, that’s about a 16 billion dollar project – it’s a rail line that is going to come all the way from Xi’an into Gowader and Iran and that’s going to come through Gilgit-Baltistan. It provides the shortest access for China into Persian Gulf, into Africa, into the Suez Canal and that is what, you know, China is really interested in – that China can skip all the twenty or so days of the journey by sea and it would take about three to four days to get to the same spot by train. So I think it’s really important for a country like China, with a growing economy, to have complete access to Gilgit-Baltistan.

I don’t have much time to go through all the projects, but I think during the question-answer I will show you some more clips of different projects going on there. I mean, India can also benefit, let’s say if there’s a visa liberalisation or open borders, India can access Afghanistan through Gilgit-Baltistan. But at the same time, since India claims the region, it could challenge China’s presence there and that is what’s really bothering China, that India could have a claim over Gilgit-Baltistan and could challenge China’s access to the natural resources there. We have uranium, copper and gold so it’s very important. Construction of rail and roads through Gilgit-Baltistan could be challenged as well as access to Pakistani ports will come under scrutiny, so I think China’s very concerned about that.

India has cultural and linguistic links from Ladakh into Gilgit-Baltistan so India has an upper hand, whereas China does not have that civilization link with Gilgit-Baltistan – it is mostly a strategic link with Pakistan – so I think these are some issues that China is concerned about. But the local people are very much in favour of it and almost all the local political parties have made it as part of their manifesto; that all these routes should open and bring more economic prosperity in the region.  Especially when there are some problems in Xinjiang and China closes the border or when militants attack from the South and we have weeks and weeks of curfew, they need an alternate route into Afghanistan or India for food and medicine supply – that’s really important for them. As well as financial identity, because they feel like if they’re not communicating with the communities of their own ethnicity of either side of the border, then their national identity is at stake.

Ecotourism, extending all the way from Nepal into Central Asia – I think the Himalayan region reconnected can help bring a lot of revenue and that’s something I think Gilgit-Baltistan is known for. We have the highest mountains in the world – about 60 of them are over 20,000 feet – so it’s very famous for tourism.

I just want to go into the future possibilities – there are three scenarios that I think that can happen in the next few years.  First of all, in the best context I would say that borders will open, everybody will benefit – every nation as well as the individuals – will benefit from economic integration and cultural development.  And China and India might become the high-value security guarantors, they would see the potential and they would try to work together to benefit from this important corridor, because Central Asia is really rich in oil and gas and I think both China and India can benefit, as well as Pakistan. I believe that Indian investment in Pakistan, for instance, will provide security to Pakistan because then India will want a secure and stable Pakistan to make profit out of its own investments.  The myths that trade liberalisation and Indian influence in Pakistan might create a situation where Pakistan would fall further subordinate to India, I think that the situation has changed a little bit.

The second scenario is that we can have stagnation where things could just stay like that. But the worst scenario I see is that if, let’s say, China continued to enhance its military and strategic influence in Gilgit-Baltistan and then after 2014, when, let’s say, the United States and NATO move out of Afghanistan and there’s a competition to gain influence in Afghanistan – that could trigger a situation where the liberalisation would be reversed, so you know, in a situation where, probably extremism will increase in Pakistan, militants will have more leverage in Pakistan because of Afghanistan’s situation and in that situation, I think, many countries would not want to have liberalised water and trade with Pakistan. That could push Pakistan further into economic stagnation – it will be a failed state and then it might not be able to secure all those trade routes.  I think, eventually, the flow of goods and resources might collapse. So that is the worst scenario that may be after 2014 if China decides to play individually in a very competitive way with India and Afghanistan as well as Pakistan, and I think that could happen.

Kashmir situation – it’s an impasse, but we believe that India, Pakistan should solve it bilaterally so when a third country gets involved, like China, it’s a regional power, then the things get confused, it gets more complicated and it just prolongs the dispute.  I believe that if that also comes into play, India and China as well as Pakistan will have more problems.

There are some suggestions that I would like to make to all these regional countries. Firstly, Pakistan – since Gilgit-Baltistan is Pakistani-controlled – they’re micro-level suggestions which involve opening the water between Gilgit-Baltistan and [inaudible], and then macro-level which involves the entire [inaudible] region with eight countries and then five countries in Central Asia. So maybe Pakistan can revise and standardise its policy on confidence-building measures on different regions of former princely state. Right now, there’s some focus on some regions where Pakistan benefits, like Kashmir valley for instance, and they’ve been allowed to trade across the border. But that should be standardised in Gilgit-Baltistan, where they can benefit from the trade as well as cultural activity and allowing people – divided family members, for example, we have 10,000 people who still are waiting for the last seven centuries, I mean, decades, to be able to see each other across the line of control so they could benefit with cross line of control travel. I believe that if they could have visa-free travel for people about 60 years of age, that would be something that a lot of these immigrants would benefit from. Maybe they can start some interaction between the parliamentarians in Gilgit-Baltistan and Ladakh in Kashmir – exchange in music, theatre and sports, for instance, between Gilgit-Baltistan and Ladakh and joint performances, as well as polo and archery – I mean we know how cricket plays its role between India and Pakistan, and the same thing for us is polo. Polo is our national sport, so Ladakh, Gilgit-Baltistan, Chitral, all these regions, you know, it’s their national sport. I think that is something that these governments can do to bring more harmony and cohesion.

They can establish a joint institution to monitor the glaciers, because Pakistan, India – they all depend on these waters and the wars, really, have done damage to these glaciers. They can have joint mechanisms to boost ecotourism, starting all the way from Bhutan and Nepal and going all the way into Central Asia. They can create some special packages for people who travel between these different countries and that can bring a lot of advantage for the local people there.

A drastic reduction in troop placement, I would say along the line of control… That could happen when there’s more confidence and trust between two countries that it develops along. And then, I believe that flights can start between different Himalayan tourist destinations. So these are the small, micro-level things that they can do, but they also need foundational changes, macro-level.

I believe that for a long time, Pakistan kept its border closed from India and Afghanistan because they thought that this is how they’re protecting their own security and national interest. But now, I believe, that has sort of allowed the militants and the extremists to use those isolated areas as their hideouts, as their launch pads, as their training camps. So I believe if we open these borders, then I think we can contain some of those unwanted elements there because while the smugglers and the terrorists – they’re benefitting from the isolation of those areas – the cultural activities as well as the legitimate businesses have suffered in the last 60 years. I believe that, you know, reduction in war spending, given that Pakistani citizens do not have adequate access to electricity, heating, water, cooking gas, fuel [inaudible] right now… In the biggest city in Pakistan right now, Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi, there are 16 to 18 hours of outages every day – this is what’s going on and they can’t afford to spend more money on wars anymore.  They need to bring more prosperity.

I believe that military has a role to protect citizens from the terrorists, but I believe if we allowed those citizens to enjoy liberalised trade and tourism regime then they will feel an incentive to take care of those trade routes because that will directly benefit from them economically. I think instead of just relying on military, we can allow the local citizens to be partners for the government in protecting those routes and their society against the militants because now they will have a direct stake in ousting those militants from those areas. So I believe that shifting away from military solutions to more trade solutions can bring those kind of benefits. Then genuine autonomy for the locals – right now locals do not have any decision-making power – the local government cannot hire or fire employees; they do not have any access to financial resources… The ordinance, for instance, that allows Pakistan to rule Gilgit-Baltistan – even the local legislative assembly does not have the right to amend that. Almost 99% of the decisions are being made from Islamabad. Local people feel that they do not really have an incentive to be part of a political process which can bring more economic and trade balance in that area.

Lord Clive Soley

Wind up there, please.

Senge Sering

Alright, I think the last one that I would say is that, you know, Pakistan and India should follow the India-China trade model. While they are working on their disputes, there’s about a 70 billion dollar trade exchange that happens every year. Now, I’m going to just read what President Zardari said and it’s very promising and I thought it’s important that I should read it out. He said the day before yesterday in one of the gatherings, “The onus of change is mostly on Pakistan”. I mean, he’s the first leader who has accepted Bangladesh, while awaiting an acceptable solution of border problems with India has moved ahead and invited Indian investments and [inaudible] road connectivity to India.  Pakistan has lagged behind and has made most of its progress conditional to progress on dispute resolution, while achieving nothing in resolving outstanding bilateral problems. Amazing. More progress has been made in these areas, these years, than ever before as marked by the agreement to allow cross-border investments instead of terrorism.  There is also the softening of the visa regime, cross-border mixing of people, [inaudible] hostile nationalism of their exaggerations, and build the trust needed for bilateral trade.

Fighting proxy and asymmetrical wars has delayed the progress towards connectivities promised by the very [inaudible] that lay the groundwork for the United South Asian market to raise regional trade from a mere 2% – right now India and Pakistan has only 2% legal trade, about 10% goes through Dubai, up to 20%… So I think this is amazing, what he has said, and we hope that, you know, something that he has said for India, Pakistan right now would also be applicable to Gilgit-Baltistan in the long run.  Thank you so much for the patience.

Lord Clive Soley

That’s quite alright.  You packed in an awful lot, in that 10 minutes extended slightly. Mr. Khan, would you like to –

Mumtaz Khan

Good afternoon everybody.  [inaudible] Thank you to the Henry Jackson Society for holding this event.  I don’t want to repeat my previous speaker’s statement as whenever we talk about [inaudible] Kashmir always.

And the Kashmir has been the key problem between India and Pakistan and it has some hope.  Impacted the relations between India and China as well, and China and Pakistan, Indian focus strategic partnership is also rooted in the same context. So, in order to understand this situation between Pakistan and China, and China and India, we need to understand the Kashmir conflict context because recently Pakistan has taken some initiatives to encourage the trade, but Pakistan has resisted all of it. It has conditions with the Kashmir conflict if they want to trade. India has granted [inaudible] to Pakistan in 1998. It has been waiting since then but Pakistan was reluctant and the reason is that there is a problem between Pakistan’s civil institution and military institution.  Because it is the military that controls the powers there, that wields the power over the civil institution.

Davis Lewin

Sorry, is this gentleman with you?

Mumtaz Khan

No.

Davis Lewin

OK – can you not take photos please sir?  Only our staff can take photos here.  You need permission from the [inaudible].

Unidentified Speaker 1

[inaudible]

Lord Clive Soley

If you haven’t got an agreement beforehand, I would ask that you not take photographs now, I’m afraid.

Unidentified Speaker 1

[inaudible]

Lord Clive Soley

Right, continue.

Mumtaz Khan

So the thing is that – Pakistan resisted all the time – economic ties with India unless the Kashmir issue is resolved.  But recently what they have done – they have granted [inaudible] in India which probably is a positive sign. During the Zardari government, Zardari has been eager to improve the relations with India but in the meantime, the Chinese influence on Pakistan is also impacted in this relationship. China’s growing tension with the US is further increasing Pakistan’s reliance on China. As a result of that, China now is involved in more than 90 projects in Pakistan and rest of Kashmir. There are small and big projects and there is a big project called Neelum Hydropower Project which has 43 kilometres of tunnel and is connecting from [inaudible] to Muzaffarabad.  It is, I think, also meant to provide power to Pakistan but it’s not benefitting the local population there and the people are having local villages short of water there because of this, converting water to that tunnel and creating serious problems over there. More than 4,000 Chinese are working there and what China is doing there – they are bringing their own workers there, they are not involving local workers or labourers there. Their local government is not allowed to enter that area and they have three layers of security there. First is by the Chinese, second is by the Pakistani and then there’s local police there.

So that, instead of facilitating development there, instead of empowering the local population and benefitting them, it is basically disempowering the local population there. Environmental impacts are also there. The Chinese – this presence – makes India further nervous. What India thinks is that China is encircling India through building the project and [inaudible] Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan and different places, so that is the reason. But the positive development between Pakistan and India is that they had taken some initiative on Kashmir specific issue by opening the borders, opening the trade and meeting the people, meeting points for the people. It has encouraged, somehow, local participation there. The problem is that officials that are controlling the trade are the military officials on the Pakistani side. The military, what they’re trying to do, discouraging the local businessman from Pakistan or Kashmir, bringing in the Pakistani businessmen because they are politically influenced, financially strong, so local people are not that much stronger if they’re not better empowered so as a result of that, benefitting the local population is directly again controlled by Pakistan.

That is causing another disempowerment instead of encouraging the local participation, empowering the local participation, and similarly, the political interaction on both sides is very limited.

The third aspect is that it is only between the two [inaudible]. But it has excluded completely Gilgit-Baltistan from these [inaudible]. The reason is this – Gilgit-Baltistan is strategically very important and that China also, not in favour of… I mean opening these borders between Gilgit-Baltistan and Ladakh and Kargil. So that is how China is impacting this India-Pakistan relation as well. In this situation, when – I mean this trade – the way we are thinking that how we can transform… These challenges into the [inaudible] the region. The thing is this, unless there is a stable government in Pakistan, civic involvement in Pakistan, there will be a problem – to normalise the relations between India and Pakistan, the sustainable relationship, between the two – they always, during the [inaudible] period, they have entered into serious negotiations, they have undertaken some Kashmir-specific [inaudible] but what has happened when [inaudible] and Indian government were close to an agreement, according to the Musharraf statement, according to the Foreign Minister statement, there was political unrest and he had to leave that power.

Today, I mean Zardari, the statement he has made that the onus is on Pakistan to take the initiative… And he was the one who said that South Asia should be like the European Union and people should have the card and just swipe the card across the borders. Last year there was a problem in Mumbai. So the thing is this – because that’s how the dialogues, the peace process is delayed – the reason is this, unless the military is not on board from the Pakistani side, the government is not in position to implement or materialise any initiatives. This is causing serious problems between India and Pakistan, but the thing is this, now India and Pakistan are involved in the trade. This MFN status still has to be, I think, endorsed by the parliament at the end of December. I don’t know if this government is able to make it or not but they are trying to improve the relations, but how far they will be successful will be determined by the military cooperation with this government. Probably the reason is this – the growing weakening relations between the US and Pakistan has forced Pakistan to take some initiative to ease the tension on the Eastern border.

I think it’s a great opportunity, there’s great potential to transform these challenges into opportunities to transform this conflict into peaceful settlement.  If the media plays a positive role, if there is education – the curriculum, if they change the curriculum there, because if you look at the Pakistani curriculum in the schools, the way they are teaching, educating, there is not education, there is indoctrination. The indoctrination in terms of, they’re still insisting on the two-nation theory and they’re trying to involve Kashmir into that two-nation theory – that it belongs to Pakistan because of the majority Muslim state so they demonise Hindus [inaudible]. So unless we change that focus, or that hatred, and change the curriculum there, probably it will be difficult to change the public perception. Recently what the media has done – when Malala was shot by the Taliban – prior to, I was surprised to see the complete shift in the media because these were the same media people, same anchor – they were pro-Taliban, even including [inaudible] I’m telling you, he has never condemned the Taliban, other anchors never condemned the Taliban, but all of a sudden, media was not only condemning that, from the right-wing to the left-wing. All media are not only condemning the Taliban, but are forcing the politicians, those religious politicians, and even Imran Khan, to condemn the Taliban by name. They were condemning, but not condemning them by name.

There was a complete perception – perception has changed among the people, and there were rallies and protests against the Taliban. So the media has a great potential to change this perception. Unless we change the perception, it will be difficult because there are institutions with vested interest to continue this kind of hostility [inaudible] military institutions and probably on that other side as well. Similarly, there is sport, there are cultural exchanges, educational exchanges that can benefit and improve the relations – and the trade is the key element if we use it to transform this conflict and it is showing some sort of improvement between the two parts and the people are benefitting because when they get the products at the cheaper price on this side, there’s a complete change in the perception towards India. Prior to that one, nobody was talking – there was a misperception that India is the occupying power and the Kashmiris under India – because there was no access to information on each other in both parts.

They were under the impression that there’s an oppression and they are getting nothing there, they have no fundamental rights, no education, nothing. Educational exchanges were made and some woman went there, I was reading on the BBC, and that the woman from the Pakistani side, she said that we were thinking that we were so bad but we told them that we were not, I mean she went there, then she started realising that Kashmir is far and vast and better developed. That’s how the perception was on this side. Similarly, when they noticed that the prices were so cheap there from agricultural products, electricity and everything… So their perception has changed so it has great potential to change these things if, I mean, things are moving as Mr. Senge has said. China, India, Pakistan… Now I think there is 25 billion trade there that India is doing and, similarly, I think Pakistan and India are 2 billion, are doing trade so if they are involved with Pakistan and do these CBMs that would change the complete perception and benefit people there and the region there and it will diminish the extremist hold because the problem with Pakistan… Its external crisis and its internal people are deprived of their fundamental rights and what Pakistan is trying to do from the very beginning, using the national religion to weaken the nationalist Pashtun [inaudible] and that shows society was radicalised, these extremists are using them. If Pakistan introduces this; I mean reliance can only be reduced through the dialogue to the peace settlement, through the trade, through the exchanges of the cultural educations and all those things and these extremists can be neutralised and demariginalised in that society. Thank you.

Lord Clive Soley

Thank you very much. Well that’s a very full agenda you have there. Can I just begin with a question to kick it off with? Both of you are emphasising the problems for and within Pakistan. I think all of us would be much in favour of increased trade and social contacts of various types but there must be a considerable fear in both China and India, whether or not the civilian government in Pakistan can actually control the military and I sense that is a large part of the problem. Nobody has absolute confidence that if Pakistan says, “We will control the border in such a way that militants don’t come over”, people don’t have confidence in that statement, is that right?

Senge Sering

I believe that if India and Pakistan and China agree to liberalise trade and have good relations then definitely the military will be on board and once the Pakistani military is on board then the attitudes of the militants or terrorists will be very different from, let’s say, right now. They are allowing, they are playing good cop-bad cop, they are allowing the civil administration to warm up to different nations but then the military has its own standard policy so I think if military is on board then it will be far easier for them to control.

Lord Clive Soley

Having conviction that they are on board is a difficult one but what I’m going to take is two questions at a time to get in as many of you as possible. So I will take two questions, two answers and so on, do you want to start off and then hear –

Davis Lewin

I wondered if you could make some comments on the general theme of rationality in this problem, because it seems to me that this presentation has been exceptionally rational and everything that you say makes complete sense and I think this is what Lord Soley alluded to some extent. But the reality of the situation is of course in a different climate of complications and complexities, different agendas and somewhat irrationality as well as the problem when it comes to Pakistan, that on one level you have all of the usual problems and on the other level you have the problem of imagination, which really often runs quite wild, in terms of what the other side is up to and what the West is doing, so on and so forth. So perhaps you could just offer some comments on the experience or your views about what realistically we need to look out for, what we can constructively do to counter that  because I think that’s a big obstacle.

Lord Clive Soley

I think rationality and politics even here [inaudible] but here we go.

Unidentified speaker 2

Mr. Senge, what is the status of [inaudible] and what states can you answer that…

Lord Clive Soley

Can you answer that one and then – okay, you’ll take the first one.

Senge Sering

It started with [inaudible] and it’s an eleven hour train all the way from Beijing to the coastal area to get to the Western border. Just 11 hours and you’re in Aramagee and then from there they have constructed it all the way to Khashka and then they spend about half a billion dollars on a feasibility report and they have approved it and now they will start working from Khashka into Pakistan; there is a city called Havaniyah.

Unidentified Speaker 2

Where is that?

Senge Sering

Khashka is in China.

[inaudible] [laughter]

So then past Havaniyah, they already have a rail track that goes all the way to Karachi so it’s going to be about another 17 hours so. I mean, they haven’t started any work but the feasibility has been approved.

Lord Clive Soley

Mr. Khan, would you like to deal with the other part of the question?

Mumtaz Khan

As far as rationality is concerned, Pakistan from the very beginning, focussing on its nationhood, tried to use the enemy image to build nationalism. Nationality and nationalism, and now we [inaudible] nationalism. So the problem is this: how can Pakistan counter this problem, because it has huge economic challenges, it has huge security challenges – extremism, terrorism, everything, I mean, it has been done deliberately. I mean, it has been promoted because instead of promoting nationhood in all the provinces. Their nationalities – they try to marginalise those nationalities by using the religion and using the religious forces to weaken those nationalist sentiments in… I mentioned Pashtun area [inaudible] still there trying to do, same area, even in Karachi, like ethnic groups. So I think it’s, unless there’s stable, I mean military gives up power and allows democracy to succeed, then you can expect that rationality might prevail. But, honestly, there’s radicalisation and it’s based on irrationality. It has no rationality among the military, among the common masses, among the religious people, so I think it is a really big challenge for Pakistan to change it.

Lord Clive Soley

Questions? Lady here, and can I have one to follow up?

Unidentified Speaker 3

This if for both speakers. If you look at the train line, that’s a fantastic idea and it will run for the full region, except there is actually [inaudible] most troubling two areas, so it started when it is coming to Pakistan. You were talking about how much human rights abuses have been happening in Kashmir and in Pakistan, and it is beginning to get into hot waters [inaudible] Karachi and then going to Afghanistan. They both are again very troubled nations which have been fighting for its autonomy and extreme human rights abuses. So how you see [inaudible] Pakistan’s completely over sighting human rights abuses there, how you see in future Pakistan’s stability through military, which has been with no accountability whatsoever. Pakistan, which has been invading [inaudible] Kashmir, how do you see Pakistan’s military has any rule whatsoever in decision-making in opening up a route without involving the local populations.

Lord Clive Soley

It’s a train ride I would love to do by the way! [laughter]

Unidentified Speaker 4

I’ve done the road one actually.

Lord Clive Soley

Have you? Lucky man. [laughter]

Unidentified speaker 4

[inaudible] obviously this is the first time I’ve heard of this and it’s quite intriguing, having driven up the highway, and from what I understand, it is a large lake at the moment so that’s going to be a fairly big engineering job. If it’s likely that this route does get through [inaudible] classic terrorist target because obviously it would hit the Pakistani government and China obviously could do a lot of damage. Is it going to be a one-way flow of information and trade, i.e. China will have access to the Arabian Sea, because obviously they are going to be concerned about extremist views coming up the railway line as it did the Silk Road. And obviously you’ve got the weaker [inaudible] movement just up the road in Khashka, is it going to actually happen?

Lord Clive Soley

Ok, who’s going to start?

Senge Sering

It’s a very interesting question about security issues. I mean if you look at, for instance, [inaudible] Turkmenistan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India pipeline, it happened because nobody is there to take the guarantee that it will start from Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and India without any leakages and the gas will get there. And in Beligistan there is the same issue and I think it’s a very realistic challenge for the Pakistani military, and in the last few years Pakistani military has killed local people in Gilga because they confronted the Chinese. There have been clashes with the Chinese and one of our fellows, [inaudible], spent a year in jail and was tortured because he just doesn’t want the Chinese to come and exploit the resources in his valley and in the valleys where the Chinese are again, such Mr. Khan’s area in Gilga… Even the local shepherds can’t go to their pastures anymore. In 2008 when they wanted to, in a village called Gindi, 22 of them were put in jail for sedition. So basically if you are confronting the Chinese, it’s sedition in their own lands so it’s very…

They are serious about the business when it comes to Gilgit-Baltistan, but further down like Baluchistan, it’s a huge challenge and I don’t think in any time in the near future  this will be a possibility for the Chinese to work… Several Chinese have been killed in Baluchistan in the last several years and I think they have abandoned many projects in Baluchistan so that’s something. That challenge will remain for the Pakistani military, to be able to convince the Chinese that it’s doable. But China is willing to spend money, I think 16, 17 billion dollars they have already spent at some point. I think if there are no more questions, I have 10, 15, actually 20 [laughter] minutes that I can show you now, all the Chinese working there so they have promised  through agreements to spend about 8 or 9 billion dollars in a dam [inaudible] and another substantial amount [inaudible] and another dam called Scarda dam, or something, or Rondoo dam. It’s going to be about 15 billion dollars. China is very much interested in those projects, 16 billion in [inaudible] and about 3 billion in [inaudible] highway expansion and all that. So I think it’s a huge amount of money that the Chinese are putting in and you know I’m sure that they’ll be able to take care of the security issues , and whether it’s going to be one way or not, it’s going to be very… I mean let’s talk about the trade for instance, it’s now 7% of the volume that is between, let’s say, Urumachi and Islamabad. It’s in China’s favour and only 13% in Pakistan’s favour, right. And none of those items out of that entire list that is traded on Karakorum highway, none of those items are manufactured in Gilgit-Baltistan or Shinja, right? So they are just carriers, people just look at lorries and trucks moving on their land and the drivers are not local, the trucks are not local, even the Chinese –

Lord Clive Soley

We want to get more questions in, I’m afraid. Yes, you, do you want to come back on it.

Mumtaz Khan

Yes, you know, in terms of his question, like the military, the human rights abuses, I think it’s not some sort of secret. I mean, everybody knows it. I’m telling you, in terms of Pakistan, the big project… I mean the Chinese are involved in the projects, [inaudible] power plant project, probably 1369 megawatts it will provide, but there is no… They did not bother to consult that government, they do not know what has been going on between Islamabad and China there and they do not even offer any kind of a right, even that right they give to other provinces [inaudible] and other resources they are using, but over there is an assembly and there is an unelected body added by the Pakistani Prime Minister and numerically under Pakistani control, called Kashmir Council, that controls 53 subjects out of 56 and Islamabad Assembly has only 3 subjects  under its mandate. So you can imagine that how the government system is there, how they rule there and the one [inaudible] office is behind the so-called Prime Minister’s office there and then there is [inaudible] Pakistani bureaucrats; chief secretary, general of police, finance secretary and accountants in general, they are controlling our resources [inaudible] they don’t have any political autonomy or authority to do any…

Lord Clive Soley

I think the problem is the political structures. Two more questions please, one there and one there, one at the end.

Unidentified speaker 5

Two questions, one to Mr. Khan. You mentioned a two-nation theory in the demilitarisation [inaudible]Would you like to put some light on that?

Lord Clive Soley

Yes, finish your second one first.

Unidentified speaker 5

How about the religious engagement, the Shia, Sunni, that’s been going on for decades – does that have an impact on the Silk Route?

Lord Clive Soley

Can we deal with those two first? And then I’ll come back to the gentleman there.

Mumtaz Khan

So this demonisation is concerned, I think there are a lot of [inaudible] available by the Pakistani, some professors and intellectuals who by [inaudible] has written many times on this issue. One of his articles is very interesting – ‘The Saudisation of Pakistan’ – what they are trying, they are completely denying from their past. They are starting the Pakistan’s, I mean two-nation theory; they are saying that it has started the moment Bin Kassam had arrived in Pakistan. They don’t talk about 1947, they don’t talk about those rulers who ruled India – Moguls and the Adels – they say no, the Pakistan, the idea of the Pakistan had been conceived the moment Bin Kassam had conquered the [inaudible] 17th century, something like that.

Similarly, the concept of kaffar, the word kaffar, it is completely reserved for only him. Kaffar means non-Muslim, but they say it is a very typical word, even within military institutions it is very commonly used. So similarly, if you read Pakistan studies and in the Pakistan studies you won’t find a single reference about the past history, I really think… And what I will be starting, from the Muslim League, they will demonise how Congress was behaving even though there are Muslim leaders in the Congress and all the previous characters, all heroes, all invaders are the Pakistani heroes. They’re all invaders in India. Other Pakistani heroes there, so I mean if you go on even just [inaudible] article.

There is one society, they have done excellent work on this thing. I don’t remember the exact name.

Unidentified speaker 6

[inaudible] as well they did about that region. Pakistan’s textbooks are changing a lot for the past 20 [inaudible]

Unidentified speaker 7

[inaudible]

Mumtaz Khan

If you look at the Allama Iqbal poetry, he was a complete secular for 40-50 years and took [inaudible] and he says, without religion –

[interruption] [inaudible]

Unidentified speaker 7

If you separate them, it’s barbarianism.

Lord Clive Soley

I think it’s the concept of [inaudible]

Mumtaz Khan

[inaudible] Now I think, it’s my opinion, I’m telling you, honestly… The question, you can, just one second – it surprises me and I’m a Pakistani progressive – they say that [inaudible] if you tell them that you preach for 30 years that the Hindus and Muslims are two different nations, their heroes are different, their food is different, their culture is different, their dress is different, their beliefs are different, everything, and on the 14th August you start saying, “You have ceased to be Hindus, Muslims, Christians”, how come… Half an hour, you are telling everybody, over cultures, over heroes, over everything, how those Hindus can be Pakistani; in half an hour, it’s a hypocrisy, I’m telling you it’s –

Lord Clive Soley

I do want to get in as many people as possible, can you do a very brief answer –

Senge Sering

Yeah, I mean it’s a reality, the Shia-Sunni divide, you know they are about 70 to 75% Shia, different varieties of Shia, there is no one Shia community. They are about 25% Sunni, so Pakistan being a Sunni country, you know, the minority gets to play the upper hand and the first Shia-Sunni problem actually stayed in 1947 when the Pakistani political agent arrived and there was a huge problem.

I mean, my family is 60% Sunni 40% and that’s pretty much how we used to be in the marriages and never had any problems. So we believe that the problems have been caused by the security services and the people that come from the outside kill local people and then they disappear into the [inaudible] and you can’t go into the [inaudible] to find those culprits and if police gets to them…  There were 6 or 7 of them in the last few years, then the military intelligence personnel comes in and gets them bailed out and then they disappear, so you know, it’s very much well-planned, the way it’s been happening in Beligistan, if you ask different people like the Hazara Democratic Party, they say when they kill Hazaras they rush into the cantonments. It shows that there is a military protection of them. It’s a target killing, not a Sunni-Shia issue; we have never looked at it as a sectarian issue.

Lord Clive Soley

Your question…

Unidentified speaker 8

Yes, thank you, taking into account the predominance of the three major powers in the region, what can the West do to support the development for a stable and prosperous Gilgit-Baltistan region?

Lord Clive Soley

I think that’s a very interesting question actually, yes, who’s going to start?

Senge Sering

We believe that whether in Gilgit-Baltistan or any other part of Pakistan, the education is really important. Pakistan has literally not spent, doesn’t spend any money, any literacy improvement we have in Gilgit-Baltistan is because of the private NGOs like [inaudible] Khan Foundation and other NGOs. Pakistani government has literally contracted it out to the NGOs, they don’t spend any money on education so education is the most important thing because that’s how people can realise how important it is to protect their own rights. And then human rights violations – not a lot has been talked about them so I think the United Nations, I believe, has a strong role in Gilgit-Baltistan because the United Nations entrusted Pakistan and said, “You’re supposed to support life and [inaudible] in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistani Kashmir”, and that’s how Pakistan got to control those lands and if in 65 years Pakistan has failed, then the United Nations has the right to ask Pakistan to comply with those clauses in the resolution. And if they do not, I think the international community should play even a bigger role in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Mumtaz Khan

I agree with Senge but the education must not be indoctrination. Pakistani schools, what I would like, English schools, I mean I have noticed that even their curriculum still has a kind of two-nation theory. You’re trying to promote in Pakistan… That has caused so many problems for the entire population, the entire the country there. So what’s needed is to push the Pakistani government to bring about some changes in that, those books, so that those students should be able to market themselves internationally. They should be confident, they should be enlightened and they should be able to have a different perspective. So I think education is one thing and I don’t want to repeat the same thing.

Lord Clive Soley

There needs to be teacher training actually [interruption]. Very quickly, can I just check, is there anybody else who is dying to get in a question? Who hasn’t spoken?  No, you’re in luck, last question.

Unidentified speaker 9

You mentioned [inaudible] the investment in education, but I think it’s also important that the local population should be more authorised and take charge in the economic development. Secondly, there should be an accountability of the security services who have been repressing the local culture. So, for example, all the army majors or colonels or [inaudible] officials who are actually human rights abusers, or disappearances, should be banned in the international travel. Their accounts have to be seized unless we do put the local mobilisation to work, like local governments and also you make people accountable for human rights abuses. Education only cannot serve this stability in the region.

Lord Clive Soley

I think, actually, quick last couple of comments… Could we all go out of this room in two minutes? Alright, so a very quick response.

Senge Sering

I believe that talking with the neighbours, because we have to live with the neighbours forever… There is no point in fighting and I believe engaging with the neighbours on trade and culture exchange basis is very important. To some extent I believe that Pakistan is in a very strange situation right now, where on its Western border [inaudible] and things are changing very fast and after 2014 a lot of things could happen. I think they are trying to secure their own interests on the Eastern border and I think India can take advantage of that and try to have a better relationship with Pakistan and penetrate commercially and economically as much as possible. I think this is the right time… If the international community can help persuade Pakistan to open the borders to let the people meet each other, people speak in different languages, ethnicities on both sides of the border – it’s very important for us, for our national identity. And you know what, what I think is important – I just want to thank the Henry Jackson Society.

Lord Clive Soley

I’m just going to let him have a word.

Mumtaz Khan

I think what we need to do is empower the local people there. I mean, local cultures there, local history, language values, the problem is that on the Indian side of the Kashmir, the Pakistani side of the Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, the problem is this – the local people are not in control of the decision making, in control of their resources, in control of anything, so everything is done by Islamabad there and that marginalises the local parties and empowerment capacity building. All this needs to be encouraged, and across the borders among these regions, and that these three governments, I mean Indian Kashmir, Pakistani Kashmir, Gilgit-Baltistan, should be in control of decision-making… How to build the confidence of the people and then the trade among these people should be encouraged, and exchange of the people and political exchanges need to be encouraged.

Lord Clive Soley

Thank you. Well I’m sure you’re both frustrated because you didn’t have more time but I’ll have to congratulate both of you because you actually packed in an awful lot and I think probably it’s an indication of a very complex area of which we don’t know very much, frankly. We are, in terms of history, politics, culture, economics… So you’ve done exceptionally well. If I can just congratulate you; in fact, you just wanted to say a last couple of words didn’t you –

Senge Sering

I’m really grateful to everyone. Gilgit-Baltistan literally is an unknown place for many people and I was not expecting people to take an interest in it. It is becoming important because, for good or bad, because of China’s involvement in Gilgit-Baltistan so we would not thank China for that [laughter] but definitely it should draw more attention of the international community. And if you don’t mind, is it possible –

Lord Clive Soley

I’m afraid not because we have to be out of the room by one. I’m awfully sorry. If you want to fix up something else through the Henry Jackson Society… But we do have to leave the room at 1 o’clock, I’m afraid.

Senge Sering

I do hope that we will be able to work in the long run on a similar issue. Pakistan is a very interesting country and in that whole special attention, so I do hope that this partnership can continue and I’m extremely grateful to you. Thank you so much.

Lord Clive Soley

Well, I just chair the meetings, but the Henry Jackson Society can talk to you about whether there are other possibilities of doing your presentation in more detail. So thank you both very much indeed.

[Clapping]

You can continue to talk outside or as you leave.

 

HJS



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