Pakistan’s Cartographic Move: Rationale and Prospects

Pakistan categorically rejected the outrageous abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A by India. Post-abrogation, the Indian map depicted the unlawfully occupied territories of Jammu and Kashmir as a part of India. The map also presented Ladakh, Aksai Chin, Azad Kashmir, and Gilgit Baltistan as Indian territories.

In August 2020, marking a year of the Indian extortive measures, Pakistan for the first time, presented its clear narrative regarding its contested area vis-à-vis India. Islamabad, in its new map, explicitly labels Jammu and Kashmir as a “disputed territory” and calls it “Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu & Kashmir” (IIOJ&K). Pakistan thus discards the Indian revocation of the semi-autonomous status of the disputed territory. During the map unveiling ceremony, PM Imran Khan claimed that Pakistan considers Kashmir as its part and the new map is the first step in that direction.

Image Credit: Survey of Pakistan

Rationale for a New Political Map

Although the map also highlights Pakistan’s stance on other significant areas, the state primarily has its “eyes set on Srinagar”. The Pakistan government, with this political stride, is signalling to Kashmiris of its continued support. Islamabad is foiling New Delhi’s goal to illegally seize hold of IIOJ&K indefinitely. Besides, as stated above, Pakistan via its new map has also underlined its position on other noteworthy territories, namely, Sir Creek, Siachen, and Junagadh.

The map depicts the stance of Pakistan regarding the issue of Sir Creek. The entire area had been awarded to Sindh in 1914, the province that later became a part of Pakistan. However, following the prospect of hydrocarbons in Sir Creek and the advent of the United Nations Convention on the Law of Sea (UNCLOS), the territory became contested. India has claimed that its boundary runs through the middle of the creek, a claim that is not supported by Pakistan. The new map released by Islamabad characterises the entire Sir Creek as a part of Pakistan. Islamabad is adamant to protect the significant Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of Sir Creek.

Pakistan via its new map has also underlined its position on other noteworthy territories, namely, Sir Creek, Siachen, and Junagadh.

Furthermore, Pakistan’s cartographic move challenges the 1984 Indian occupation of Siachen. In 1949, the two parties delineated a Cease-Fire Line (CFL) through the Karachi Agreement. However, as the land of Karakoram had been mostly inaccessible, therefore CFL could not be properly demarcated in the north. The agreement only stated that beyond NJ 9842, the boundary moved “thence north to the glacier” i.e. Siachen Glacier. CFL later morphed into the Line of Control (LoC) in 1972. As per Pakistan’s interpretation of the LoC, Siachen falls into Pakistan administered region of Karakoram Range. That is why Pakistan continued to claim the territory. In 1984, India occupied Siachen in an army operation; an occupation that has been rejected by Pakistan. Also, Pakistan’s interpretation of LoC has been featured in the illustrations published by neutral bodies such as Encyclopaedia Britannica. Consequently, the area is also shown as a part of Pakistan in the new map.

Likewise, the map indicates the state of Junagadh as a part of Pakistan based on the partition formula. At the time of independence, the Nawab of Junagadh, with the approval of his state council, had declared the accession to Pakistan. However, later a purported referendum was held under the shadow of the Indian army leading to an unlawful occupation of Junagadh by India. The Nawab fled to Pakistan and established a provisional government of Junagadh there. Islamabad’s political overture likewise involves the attempt to keep the Junagadh dispute alive.

Prospects of the Map

The new political map of Pakistan has multiple prospects in terms of Pakistan’s commitment to the Kashmir issue. These prospects range from the tactical move of including China in the political narrative; to actively lobby for and pursue the Kashmir cause at international forums.

With the new map, Pakistan has formally included China in its political discourse. Pakistan has labelled the boundary between India and China as “Frontier Undefined”. Beijing has already expressed its disdain on the Indian revocation of Kashmir’s special status. The year-old Indian aggressive measures have turned the state machinery in China and Pakistan rather vigilant in their reactions. The regional border issues that have been simmering in the background for a long time, have now become flashpoints of the region. New Delhi is in a perilous situation, with Beijing striking them at the Himalayas, causing the former to lose fresh territory in Ladakh. Following the Ladakh standoff, New Delhi no longer has the option for an offensive at Gilgit Baltistan either, due to the fear of a two-front war. Beijing has reaffirmed Islamabad regarding its opposition to any one-sided step that could further complicate the India-Pakistan scenario.

Also, one of the fringe benefits of the map is its ability to get under India’s skin. The Indian reaction shown during the meeting of foreign secretaries of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was one such public evidence. Islamabad’s move has started a public debate.

Besides, according to the customary international law, the right to self-determination is a right “erga omnes”. With a concrete representation of its stance on Kashmir, Islamabad will be pressing the case in different states across the globe. The Indian atrocities, war crimes, and violations of human rights in IIOJ&K will be underscored. Islamabad also aims to lobby among global media houses, lawmakers, and advocates of human rights. Thence, Islamabad is looking at a forceful diplomatic drive for holding a special session of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) in this regard.

The new map indicates that that the ultimate conclusion of the Kashmir dispute would be in line with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions

With this, Islamabad intends to get a resolution passed in UN General Assembly (UNGA), so that the Kashmir issue might get referred to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). Though, the parties to the dispute; India and Pakistan are participants in numerous international human rights agreements. However, India is under no obligation to abide by any decision of ICJ in the matter of Kashmir. New Delhi has ensured in its treaties that it stays safe from any prerogative of ICJ. Nevertheless, Pakistan is seeking the issuance of an advisory opinion by ICJ on the Kashmir issue, via the reference from UNGA. Though not legally binding, an advisory opinion will fortify the global credibility of the Kashmir cause.

PM Khan maintains that “We will remind the UN again and again that you had made a promise which you did not fulfil.” As India altered the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, the protracted conflict between Pakistan and India has been brought under discussion at the United Nations (UN) three times within a year. Pakistan considers it as a sign of solidarity with the people of Kashmir, shown by the rest of the world.

Pakistan has shown repeatedly that it stands for peace and stability in the region. It has long waited for the global players to wake up to the Kashmir’s plea against Indian totalitarian ambitions. India on the other hand is losing its credibility on global platforms. It is only a matter of time. New Delhi will eventually have to give in and follow through on the UNSC resolution. The new map indicates that that the ultimate conclusion of the Kashmir dispute would be in line with the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions on the matter. One of its landmark resolutions titled “The India-Pakistan Question” calls for holding a plebiscite in the disputed territory of Kashmir. Although later the Simla Agreement aimed to turn the issue into a bilateral matter, yet the UNSC resolution remains effective.

In addition, Islamabad and New Delhi are not part of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Therefore, the matter cannot be directly taken to ICC. However, UNSC has the authority to refer the Kashmir issue to ICC based on the human rights abuses directed at Kashmiris. UNSC has earlier contributed to the internationalisation of the issue. It is high-time the organisation sees the resolution of the matter through.

Fareha Iqtidar Khan

Fareha Iqtidar Khan

Fareha Iqtidar Khan is Associate Editor at the Centre for Strategic and Contemporary Research. She is also Visiting Faculty at the International Islamic University, Islamabad.

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