Washington: On a five-day visit to the US, BJP President Rajnath Singh has raked up the issue of human rights violations and oppression of the people of Gilgit Baltistan in the illegally occupied parts of Jammu and Kashmir.
"India and Afghanistan have traditionally been tied together by the Silk Route. If India does not share a land border of 106 kms with Afghanistan on Wednesday, it is because of Pakistan`s illegal occupation of this historical part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir since 1948," Rajnath Singh said in a keynote address at a conference on Afghanistan held at the Capitol Hill.
"The Northern Regions of Gilgit and Baltistan, whose people are subjected to massive oppression and human rights violations today, are a gateway for India to Central Asia with which we have had millennia-old relations. India should get rightful access to Central Asia through the Gilgit-Baltistan region, with connectivity being established between Kargil in India and Skardu in Gilgit," Singh said.
The conference was jointly organised by the Foundation for India and Indian Diaspora Studies; US India Political Action Committee and American Foreign Policy Council.
The organisers had also invited Senge Sering, president of Institute of Gilgit Baltistan Studies, a Washington-based think tank to the conference.
In his speech, Sering said of late China has been making undue inroads inside Gilgit Baltistan, Claiming that thousands of Chinese workers and security personnel have entered the disputed region endangering the well-being of locals and placing an extra burden on resources.
It is estimated that China will invest more than USD 30 billion in Gilgit-Baltistan in the coming years to build dams and connect Xinjiang with Gwadar via rail and road, Sering said.
Sering said not long ago, Gilgit-Baltistan was considered the hub of international trade, connecting Afghanistan and Central Asia to India and beyond.
Free movement and commerce created a culture of co-existence and tolerance, he said.
"Today, we have a choice to carry forward that tradition or to allow a darker scenario to emerge with global security implications. Ignoring Gilgit-Baltistan`s strategic value puts the entire region on a brink for political isolation, economic vulnerability and the growth of extremism and authoritarianism.
"The only tenable solution is to help transform Gilgit-Baltistan from the linchpin of terror to a hub of international trade, commerce and prosperity where all stakeholders have an incentive to maintain free movement between South and Central Asia," Sering said.