Gilgit-Baltistan: Strategic and Geopolitical Importance?

Gilgit-Baltistan, located at the confluence of the great mountain ranges Himalayas, Hindu Kush and Karakoram, was part of the Great Game between the Soviet Union and Britain in the 19th century.

The global situation has once again brought Gilgit-Baltistan to a prominent place in the global scenario both geographically and politically. Gilgit-Baltistan, with an area of 72,971 sq km and a population of over 1.2 million, has been the hub of the Silk Road and the Great Game for centuries.

The Silk Road or Silk Route is a term which refers to the complex historical network of ancient trade routes across the Afro landmass of Eurasian which connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world in the past and to some extent even today.

The Silk Road has now been replaced by Karakoram Highway, the eighth wonder of the world and its construction was completed in 1979.

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The importance of Gilgit Baltistan increased initially with the construction Karakoram Highway (KKH) and now with the start of CPEC. The distance from Gwadar to Khunjerab is 2463 kilometres and the Gwadar port will save at least more than 16000 kilometres of distance for China.

Gilgit Baltistan holds pivotal position in this project as it is the gateway to CPEC. The CPEC covers almost 500 kilometres in Gilgit Baltistan, therefore the success of CPEC depends on Gilgit, the gateway. The location of Diamer-Basha dam on Indus River is 40 kilometers downstream of Chilas. It is considered as one of the biggest ever public sector project undertaken in Pakistan.

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Given its geography and today’s global political situation, the region once again appears to be the center of a Great Game.

This important region is considered to be a very important and game-changing high point not only in terms of its location but also in terms of tracking not only Pakistan but also Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Xinjiang and Wakhan Corridor.

In terms of strategic connectivity between India, China, Russia and Central Asia, Gilgit-Baltistan is of paramount importance to Pakistan’s great friend China. Gilgit-Baltistan is the only gateway for the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the only route connecting China to the Arabian Sea.

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According to experts, the geopolitical importance of Gilgit-Baltistan has increased in recent years when global powers, including the United States, began to take an interest in Asia. Gilgit-Baltistan, the source of the Indus River and the land of hundreds of glaciers and lakes, has the potential to become a global economic hub.

Experts also called the government’s move to make Gilgit-Baltistan the fifth provincial province a response to the 19th-century Great Britain-Russia game.

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