By Asif Ali Ashraf
The Indus River originates from a spring in Tibet. It then travels through Ladakh (Indian held Kashmir) where it is joined by other small rivulets and streams. Still in its infancy, it eventually it enters Baltistan, where it is known as the Khaplu River. The glacier melt from the many glaciers of Gilgit Baltistan and the influx from different rivers, such as the Hunza and Gilgit, enter the flow near Jaglote/Bunji and the Indus/Khaplu swells to become the Indus/ Abbasin (Father of the river).
Gilgit Baltistan is the biggest fresh water reservoir in the world outside of the polar region, and as yet is a relatively untapped resource with the exception of the Indus River mentioned above. So far, only India and Pakistan countries vie with each other over this reservoir, although it is to be expected that others will enter into the fray in future as fresh water increases in scarcity as a resource. The upper hand is held by India in the military power balance between India and Pakistan as far conventional weaponry is concerned. Pakistan is concentrating on building its nuclear weaponry arsenal to counter this superiority. Pakistan is also buddying up with China as another way to get an edge, particularly with respect to Gilgit Baltistan as disputed territory with India.
Pakistan’s relationship with China cost a large section of Gilgit Baltistan in 1963 when Pakistan ceded a large chunk of territory to the Chinese. The Siachen Glacier was a significant component of the Shaksgam Tract. In present times, the Pakistan China Economic Corridor is being developed, despite the fact that the people of Gilgit Baltistan have been kept out of the discussion. Gilgit Baltistan is the key to the project. However, it is possible that there can be not just the one, but numerous economic corridors, all of which should give some economic benefit to GB, which currently it’s not.