'Pakistan's foundations are flawed' The Kargil Prism In the second part of the interview, Senge Hasnan Sering, the director of the Gilgit Baltistan National Congress, tells Ramananda Sengupta why Pakistan will continue its policy of terror, and why India must refrain from military retaliation, and work instead with the secular pro-democracy forces, like those in Gilgit Baltistan. Part I: 'Pakistan, China must leave Gilgit-Baltistan' How do the people of Gilgit Baltistan perceive India? Until the mid-80s, India was judged by the people of Gilgit-Baltistan through the prism of religion and the two-nation theory. Pakistani media and textbooks filled with hatred for Hindus and India also affected the minds of the natives of Gilgit-Baltistan, who remained delusional about Pakistan, claimed by its founders as the so-called citadel of Islam and a welfare state created to safeguard the Muslims of India. In 1988, when one-hundred thousand Pakistani forces and militants attacked Gilgit-Baltistan, and subjected natives to arson, loot, rape and forced conversion, it compelled the natives to review their trust and belief in their adopted country. They felt insulted, exploited and threatened by Pakistan oppressors. A decade later, a meaningless Kargil War consumed more than four thousand natives of Gilgit-Baltistan. This was another incident which forced the natives to change their perception about Pakistan as well as India. Many locals were surprised that India didn't occupy Gilgit-Baltistan despite the opportunity which was presented to it during the final days of the war. On the other hand, Pakistan was seen as an exploiter which damaged the land, and hurt the interests of natives of Gilgit-Baltistan by engaging in a fruitless war. Ties that bind Any other perceptions? It is a fact that the Shias and Nurbaxshis of Kargil and Leh have been treated fairly well by India and they have cultural and religious freedom. As the nationalists of Gilgit-Baltistan became outspoken in the 90s, they started talking about linguistic and religious connections of Gilgit-Baltistan with Ladakh and Kashmir. Given the context, natives evaluate India vis-a-vis its conduct towards the people of Ladakh and see it as a country which protects the needs and interests of the Shias and Nurbaxshis there. Of late, India is also seen as a growing economic power. The majority of people who have interest in political affairs know that India claims Gilgit-Baltistan owing to the Maharaja of Jammu & Kashmir signing a letter of accession in India's favor. India is thus a party to the dispute. The recent denial of funds to Pakistan by World Bank to construct the Diamer Dam in Gilgit-Baltistan has also changed the perception about India, since India objected to the project. The locals see India as an influential country which can alter decisions in Gilgit-Baltistan despite the fact that actual control of the region remains with Pakistan. The people of Diamer district who were going to suffer from the construction of the Diamer dam are happy that Pakistan failed to receive the funds. One must remember and salute all those right-defenders of Diamer, who were killed by Pakistani forces in the last few years, as well as hundreds of others who are still detained and tortured for protecting the rights and interests of the natives of Gilgit-Baltistan and resisting construction of the Diamer dam. The Real Terrorists What do you think about India repeatedly offering the olive branch to Pakistan despite all evidence pointing to its involvement in terrorist acts in India and on Indian interests in places like Afghanistan? It is a reality that Pakistan will continue to use violence and terrorism to promote its interests in Afghanistan, Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. This has been done in the name of extending and sustaining strategic depth in these areas. However, India must remain peaceful and prove its worth as a democratic and progressive nation. Any wars between the two countries hurt the existence of the people who live along both sides of the Line of Control. One must not forget that attack on Gilgit-Baltistan by Pakistani forces and militants in 1988 and (then Army Chief Pervez) Musharraf's Kargil War of 1999 created hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs). The majority of them have been unable to resettle and regain their means of livelihood. Their widows and orphans have developed mental illnesses, causing social paralysis. Any new Kargil- like episode will therefore prove detrimental to the survival of the natives of Gilgit-Baltistan and Ladakh. The Pakistani establishment, especially the secret service agencies, thrives on violence. While Pakistan uses the people of Gilgit-Baltistan as cannon fodder to advance its own political and military interests in Kashmir, India must refrain from retaliating. India should rather throw its weight behind those communities which are struggling to counter the influence of Taliban in their own regions. It is about time the international community recognized the efforts of such communities and empowered them to effectively eliminate extremism and terrorism. Afghanistan as a sovereign country has the right to promote friendship with India or any other country in the world. The destruction of schools and medical centers built by Indian workers is not an attack on India, but an attack on the interests of the poor Afghanis who deserve basic socio-economic services. Final Contours The Kashmir issue is as old as India and Pakistan. Do you see a solution to it in the near future, and if yes, what kind of contours do you envisage? To even prepare the ground for a solution, the Line of Control must open between Gilgit-Baltistan and Ladakh to benefit people to people contact, resumption of trade over historical routes and the revival of secular culture to counter extremist elements. The state subject rule must be reinstated in Gilgit-Baltistan, which was abrogated in 1974 to enable illegal settlement of Pakistanis in the region. Pakistan must take out all its citizens who have acquired land and assets in Gilgit-Baltistan and challenge the authority of natives over their resources. Pakistan needs to withdraw its troops and paramilitary from the region. Now, there is one Pakistani security personnel for every 25 natives. Once cross-LoC people to people contact is established, then we can talk about the contours of the final solution of the Kashmir issue. The natives of Gilgit-Baltistan should regain complete control over their land, resources, as well as political, judicial and administrative structures. The people of Gilgit-Baltistan have the right to decide about the final solution. We don't believe that any one political group has the right to call itself the 'sole' representative of Jammu & Kashmir or Gilgit-Baltistan. All sons of soil will have to sit together without Pakistani interference to decide about the future of Gilgit-Baltistan. The era of proxy representation needs to end to bring Kashmir dispute to its logical end. It's Bleak How do you see the future of Pakistan? Pakistan is a country with flawed foundations. It was created on the basis of sectarianism and suppressing ethnic and linguistic realities. The foundation of Pakistan was based on values such as rejecting social diversity and equality, denouncing secularism and developing a sectarian-based undemocratic constitution. The cyclic processes of human killings which we see in different parts of the country including recent deaths in Gojra, Karachi and Parachinar substantiate this argument. During the time of General Zia-ul Haq, Shias, Ahmedis and other minorities were slaughtered to 'protect the interests of the country'. This practice has continued to this day. The ideology of two-nation and objective resolution has done no good for the poor. It has rather created a privileged religious group to rule them. Pakistan needs to do major overhauling of its constitution to survive. It has to stop using the people of Afghanistan, Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan for selfish strategic interests. It has to let others live in peace if it wishes a longer life for itself. The Taliban and Al-Qaida are taking up the role of modern Nazis, causing damage to the entire humanity. Pakistan has to eliminate these groups to save her existence. The situation in Balochistan is very alarming and has reached point of no return. The people there deserve absolute control over their land and resources. They cannot be kept hostage to Pakistani needs. These issues lead to the conclusion that if Pakistan doesn't change its current policies, then its future is bleak. The Taliban's B-Team Why do you think the US continues to endorse and support Pakistan despite all the evidence pointing to it being ''Terror Central''? The US is delusional that that the Pakistani ruling establishment can be reformed by eliminating rogue elements within and thereby persuading it to adopt liberal agendas. However this flies in the face of Pakistan's Constitution which is based on the extremist two-nation theory and objective resolution and clashes with the common interests of humanity. The Pakistani establishment sees itself as the protector of that constitution. Any oppressive, extremist and discriminatory policy is therefore seen lying within the scope of Pakistani Constitution and hence legitimate. I don't know what Washington really believes but at the moment it feels dependent on Pakistan to sustain its war against the rogue elements in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. In my opinion, this is counter-productive. The international community, especially the United States, must persuade Pakistan to close terror camps in Gilgit-Baltistan. It has to realize that continued occupation of Gilgit-Baltistan by Pakistan will eventually turn it into safe-haven for the Taliban. The funds provided by US are being invested in training and arming the so-called 'anti-Taliban' Lashkar or other groups. In my opinion, they are nothing but the B-Team of the Taliban, who will change their roles and expose themselves as time and space permit. China Factor How do you see the Pakistan-China relationship? What does it mean for India? Gilgit-Baltistan is used by both Pakistan and China as a lynchpin to weave the strategic regional alliance, which now includes Iran, Central Asian Republics and even some Arab countries. China knows that given the civil war like situation in Afghanistan, it will always remain dependent on Gilgit-Baltistan (read Pakistan) to extend her strategic depth in neighboring South Asian and Middle Eastern countries. As quid pro quo, China is building dams in Gilgit-Baltistan to alleviate energy shortages in Pakistan. China is increasingly dependent on the oil and gas resources of the Middle East, and Gilgit-Baltistan (read Pakistan) provides the shortest and most secure route of supply. China is building a railroad through GB to Afghanistan, Iran and other western countries to sustain and advance military and economic interests. As the Middle Eastern countries build stronger ties with China, it will increase Pakistan's leverage as power-broker. As China enhances its role in the Persian Gulf, which provides 70 percent of fossil fuel to India, India's insecurities will increase. China's growing role in Afghanistan, Pakistani occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan makes India vulnerable. Basically China's growing influence in in Afghanistan, Pakistani occupied Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan will reduce space for India to maneuver. Having said that, it is up to China and India to set aside their historical differences and develop a partnership to mutually benefit from these political developments. Allowing Indian goods to reach China and Central Asia through Gilgit-Baltistan will help build local economy. If the people of Punjab in both India and Pakistan can benefit from mutual trade, and if Pakistani land can be used as transit for Indian goods to reach Afghanistan, then Gilgit-Baltistan must also benefit from similar initiatives.