On 04th August, Pakistan unveiled a new political map of the country. The said map included the princely state of Junagadh in Indian Gujarat as well as areas such as Sir Creek, Ladakh, Manavadar and the entire of Jammu and Kashmir. India has declared the new map as “politically absurd” stating that Pakistan is laying claims on areas which, unquestionably belong to India.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi has stated that while many administrative maps have been released this new map is the first of its kind in that it reflects the aspirations of the Kashmiri people and it is one which is to be agreed upon as the “official map” of the country. He also said that the federal cabinet agreed on this map with the government of Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan states that the new map correctly depicts disputed regions as so. Pakistan only wishes for the dispute to be resolved according to the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). The UNSC has decided for a plebiscite to be held in Kashmir regarding the decision of the masses to join either India or Pakistan.
Back in 1947, it was expected that Junagadh would join India. However, the Nawab of Junagadh revealed that he did not intend for this to happen, and according to the Indian Independence Act of 1947, he had the liberty to make the decision of joining either India or Pakistan. The Hindu-majority region of Junagadh was ruled by a Muslim Nawab and his Dewan, Shah Nawaz Bhutto. On the advice of his Dewan, Junagadh’s Nawab had decided to accede to Pakistan.
However, the state of Junagadh is located in the Kathiawar region and was surrounded by states that had decided to accede to India in 1947. The Nawab, therefore, also had to contemplate the strategic location of Junagadh concerning its neighboring territory and maritime importance, due to its singular outlet to the Arabian Sea. For these reasons, a decision on the fate of Junagadh could not be undertaken by the set date of accession. However, by September 15th, the Nawab had announced his decision to accede to Pakistan.
This announcement was not taken pleasantly in New Delhi. Due to the location of Junagadh in Kathiawar, from where it derived its resources and sustenance, it was difficult to see how it would survive independently of the region. Many were also unsure of how India would allow a foreign territory to be embedded in an Indian-held region due to security issues, and yet the decision was completely legitimate according to the Indian Independence Act.
A revolt broke out over the issue which was followed by Indian military troops closing in around the region. India proceeded to put Junagadh into an economic blockade followed by setting up a provisional government that was headed from New Delhi. Pakistan declared this as an attack on Junagadh’s right to self-determination, especially in light of the Indian pressure on Junagadh to accede to India in order to lift the economic blockade. The provisional government had managed to drive the Nawab and his Dewan to flee to Karachi and seek refuge.
The State of Junagadh held a plebiscite in 1948, in order to reach a decision on whether they would accede to India or Pakistan. According to Shah Nawaz, the state had to make a decision that would allow them to avoid bloodshed, war, loss of life and property and remove the economic blockade from the region. Therefore, the state voted in favor of joining India. A referendum was also held later which resulted in India receiving much of the population’s vote. The official count noted that out of a total of 1,90,870 votes casted, only 91 cast their votes in favor of Pakistan, which was very absurd and thus rejected by Pakistan government. At the sensitive time of partition, the newly founded state of Pakistan had to tackle millions of new refugees, administrative issues, and the defense and security of the region and could not adequately defend the right of Junagadh’s right to self-determination.
Another area which Pakistan reclaims in this map is Siachen. In a similar move, the Government of India released a new map of India last year showing Siachen as part of Indian territory. Many have claimed Pakistan’s recent decision to revise the political map of the country as a rebuke of India’s moves last year in a paper battle to reclaim the land. In 1948, the skirmishes between the two newly founded countries did have a significant impact, but will this also be true in 2020? Some analysts think not.
The new map was released a day prior to the anniversary of Yaum-i-Istehsal: the day India revoked Kashmir’s special status via the dismissal of Article 370. The disputed state of Kashmir is currently being actively contested for, military troops from both Pakistan and India have taken hold of regions within the state and it is true that much of the population of the region wishes to join Pakistan, as a fair future plebiscite would reveal.
The release of the new political map of the country is being termed as the “first step” towards the solution to the Kashmir issue. The new map has come at a time when India’s ruthless occupation in Kashmir has gained height once more. Pakistan has time and time again, driven the idea that it supports the freedom of the Kashmiri people to decide their future and the country has continued to stand with its brethren in Kashmir in their struggle for self-determination.
With tensions boiling over after a year-long lockdown in Indian occupied Kashmir, the restoration of the dignity and freedom of the Kashmiris have become absolutely imminent. The political map of the country may have garnered the annoyance of Pakistan’s neighbor, but what it needs now is the attention of the global community and UNSC to, through a proper democratic process, restore the freedom of the Kashmiris, beside which Pakistan continues to stand in solidarity.
Nausheen Samad is a student of Social Entreprenuership at Institute of Business Management and has interests in International Relations, Philosophy and Political Sociology.