Pakistan is considering upgrading the constitutional status of its northern Gilgit-Baltistan region, which is also claimed by India, in a bid to provide legal cover to a multi-billion-dollar Chinese investment plan, officials said Thursday.
The move could signal a historic shift in Pakistan’s position on the future of the wider Kashmir region, observers have said, weeks after fragile peace talk efforts that received a boost after India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Lahore in December.
The proposal would grant the mountainous region greater legislative powers and control of its revenue, as well as send two lawmakers to the federal parliament for the first time — albeit as observers.
Islamabad has historically insisted the parts of Kashmir it controls are semi-autonomous and has not formally integrated them into the country, in line with its position that a referendum should be carried out across the whole of the region.
A top government official from Gilgit-Baltistan said the move was in response to concerns raised by Beijing about the China Pakistan Economic Corridor, an ambitious $46 billion infrastructure plan to link China’s western city of Kashgar to the Pakistani port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea. Read more