A morbid fear of battle along the Line of Control (LoC) is again increasing tension and anxiety among the residents of the border areas of Chourbat Valley in Baltistan. Fifteen years have passed for the bloody clashes of 1999 at Karglil. The border tension seems never ending and thus increasing the sufferings of the people of the border areas.
Before the Indo-Pak war of 1971, the Chourbat Valley was comprised of more than eighteen small villages. During the Indo-Pak war of 1971 the Indian forces occupied several villages of Chourbat Valley creating a new border at Franu Village. The occupation of the territories of the Chourbat valley by the Indian Forces caused separation of hundreds of families at both sides of the borders, as the villages have a long history of trade and inter-village marriages.
This mass separation among the members of the families is remembered as the greatest loss in the history of Baltistan. One can easily identify a large community of migrants from the villages of Chulang-kha and Tiak-si in the Sherthang and Manthal areas of Skardu City with a distinct accent of Balti language and face outlook.
The Kargil war in 1999 once again aggravated a fear among the people of the region which killed dozens of civilians due to the cross border firings. The war of 1999 again affected the people of the region and a large number of IDPs migrated to other towns of Khaplu and Skardu District. This internal displacement badly affected the lives of the people. A yearlong displacement from their homes disintegrated the members of the families, the education of the children was lost and the financial resources were destroyed. The Kargil War of 1999 and the Skirmishes later on have laid an unforgettable terror on the minds of the people of the Chourbat Valley, since then people feel fear whenever the relations between the two countries becomes tense.
“Whenever the relation between the two countries becomes uneasy we get afraid that how we will protect the lives of our families because the shells do not identify either it is a civilian or army personnel.” Said Karim a resident of Chourbat Valley
“We find ourselves vulnerable since the Kargil war because the Morter shell destroyed my house in 1999 war, thanks God my family was not present in home at that time.” Said Rustam Ali another resident of Chourbat Valley.
It is a fact that the relations between the two countries have direct effect on the lives of the people living at the borders of the country. The people along the borders of Chourbat Valley and other parts of border areas in Baltistan are getting punishment of a sin for which they are not guilty of, and whenever there is firing the civilian’s dying at both sides of the Chourbat borders are relatives.
This is a high time for the Governments of the both countries that they shouldn’t convert their politics into wars at the borders of Baltistan. The run of the two countries for the permanent membership in United Nations is surely not going to transform the lives of the people of border areas.
Due to the militarization of the areas like Chourbat by both India and Pakistan is at one side affecting the peace of the region while at the same time the region is avoided by international tourists due to security risks.
The locals have demands to open the borders of Chourbat Valley towards Ladakh and Kargil from Kharmang Valley so the locals could meet each other after long separations. Trade activities through these borders can also transform the lives of the people of these regions.
Siachen Glacier, the second largest glacier out of the Polar region, is also a matter of contention between the two countries due to its militarization in 1980’s. Both rival countries are not only investing a huge portion of their defense budget to secure the LoC along the highest battle ground of the world but are also affecting the livelihood of the locals by blocking tourists to trek the Siachen Glaier.
By adopting measures to build confidence and sustain peace, the two countries can benefit their national economy as well as the people of border areas will also have better and peaceful life.
The Writer is Graduate of Politics and International Relations from International slamic University Islamabad.