Home Contact Us
Search :
   

India - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#3614, 26 April 2012
 
The Kargil-Skardu Route: Implications of its Opening
Zainab Akhter
Research Intern, IPCS
email: zainab9059@gmail.com
 

Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) is strategically important for Pakistan both in terms of water security and because of the Karakoram Highway, which links Gwadar with China. Consolidating a road that intercepts the Karakoram highway is critically important in times of war for rapidly severing this link that has been deeply detrimental to India’s security. Moreover such a road can provide rapid access to Central Asia should either of two extremities eventuate – the collapse of Pakistan, or a rapid warming of India-Pakistan ties. This article, however, attempts to explore the implications of opening and consolidating the Kargil - Skardu road as a step towards the opening of GB and its pacification, which has been in turmoil for years.

In recent years, the Sectarian violence in GB has, in fact, intensified leading to an attempted exodus to Kharmang in Pakistan, compounded by a human rights problem. Two issues are central to the problem – divided families and a depressed local economy. That cross-border routes alleviate emotional alienation as a result of families divided by borders has been proven by the opening of the Uri-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawlkote routes for Kashmir and Jammu respectively. Now attention needs to be focussed on Ladakh – especially the Shia Baltis of the Kargil and Skardu regions.

Haji Abdul Hamid, a native of Zanskar symbolises this. In 1948 the retreating Pakistan Army, which had occupied the Zanskar heights took many locals and settled them in Skardu. As a result of tight travel restrictions they can only meet in Saudi Arabia or Iran during pilgrimages. Since the Baltis do not identify with the Kashmiri culture, the alleviation of Balti concerns significantly reduces the scope of what is referred to as the “Kashmir Issues” taking further wind away from the sails of this monolith construction.

Historically, the all weather Kargil-Skardu route was a jugular of intra-regional trade on which the local economy was heavily dependent. The events following partition, specifically the India-Pakistan war of 1948 resulted in the closure of this historic route isolating Baltistan from its natural linkages to the outside. The road from Skardu to Kargil via Srinagar is almost a stretch of 1,700Kms while, at the same time, Skardu is a 173kms or a five to six hours drive from Kargil. The entire route is, at present, suitable for four wheeled vehicles and may need some widening for a small stretch of about half a kilometre near the Line of Control (LoC). The utility of the Kargil-Skardu road also lies in its durability in winter months. At present there is only one pass Zoji-La (NH1) which connects the Ladakh region on the Indian side with the rest of the World. But this lifeline is cut off for more than six months in winters due to heavy snowfall and people spend their life in isolation specially in Kargil (Leh has an aerial connectivity from Srinagar, Jammu and Delhi).

This route can become an important trade and tourism link for the people of Ladakh. Several studies indicate the existence of a large smuggling based black market in the region. Formalizing this trade carries the potential of  increasing governmental income, which can  strengthen the local economy by providing impetus for further growth independent of what happens in the Kashmir valley.  As trade between India and Pakistan are carried out in a third country, significant revenues are lost, profit margins are reduced, and costs go up. Formalization of direct trade by eliminating these three undesirable aspects brings an immediate improvement to the quality of life in the region.

GB and Kargil have extensive tourism potential, especially adventure tourism - trekking, mountain biking, river rafting and a host of other such activities. In addition, there are number of routes suitable for high altitude Jeep Safaris. The exploitation of these depends on open circuits with several contingencies and shorter access routes, which are cut off by the border as of now.  Moreover, given that the link to Kashmir is snowed in for half the year, this route delinks what is otherwise an all weather tourist destination to the climactic undesirables of weather patterns in Kashmir. As a result, the seasonal unemployment that Kashmir suffers from is unwittingly imposed on the Kargil region, which need not be the case.

Leaders of the Hill Development Council in Kargil have demanded a Greater Ladakh which would include Gilgit, Skardu and Baltistan precisely because the local economic development is being held hostage to events in Kashmir even though the underlying causes are completely divorced from the more contentious issues there. This card if played right can be the first step towards the pacification if not the solution of the Kashmir problem.

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary

D Suba Chandran
Across the Durand Line: Who is in Control Now? Will That Change?
Taliban Talks and the Four Horsemen: Between Peace and Apocalypse
Pakistan: Talks about Talks with the Taliban, Again
Dateline Islamabad

Salma Malik
Pakistan and TTP: Dialogue or Military Action?
The Musharraf Trial & Beyond

Dateline Kabul

Mariam Safi
Afghanistan, US and the Peace Process: A Deal with the Taliban in 2014?
Dhaka Discourse

Prof Delwar Hossain
Bangladesh: Domestic Politics and External Actors
Bangladesh Post Elections 2014: Redefining Domestic Politics?

Eagle Eye

Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
US in Asia: A 'Non-Alignment' Strategy?
Indo-US Strategic Partnership Post Khobragade: The Long Shadow
East Asia Compass

Dr Sandip Mishra
North Korean Peace Gestures and Inter-Korea Relations
Japan: Implications of Indiscriminate Assertiveness
China, Japan, Korea and the US: Region at Crossroads

Himalayan Frontier

Pramod Jaiswal
Chinese Inroads to Nepal
Constituent Assembly-II: Rifts Emerging
Nepal: The Crisis over Proportional Representation and the RPP Divide
Maritime Matters

Vijay Sakhuja
Increasing Maritime Competition: IORA, IONS, Milan and the Indian Ocean Networks
China in the Indian Ocean: Deep Sea Forays
Iran Navy: Developing Long Sea Legs

Middle Kingdom

DS Rajan
China in the Indian Ocean: Competing Priorities
China-Japan Friction: How can India Respond?
Nuke Street

Amb Sheelkant Sharma
Nuclear Security Summit 2014 and the NTI Index
Nuclear Power: An Annual Report Card

Red Affairs

Bibhu Prasad
Maoists in the Northeast: Reality and Myth-Making
Surrender of Gudsa Usendi: Ominous beginning for the Naxals?
South Asian Dialectic

PR Chari
Federalism: Centre as Coordinator and Adjudicator
Limits of Federalism

Spotlight West Asia

Amb Ranjit Gupta
Saudi Arabia-US Estrangement: Implications for the Indian Subcontinent
Syria Today: Is Regime Change the Answer?
The Arab World: Trying Times Ahead
Strategic Space

Manpreet Sethi
US, China and the South Asian Nuclear Construct
Responding to Pakistan’s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: A Strategy for India

The Strategist

Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Strategic Non-Nuclear Weapons: An Essential Consort to a Doctrine of No First Use
 

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee


 
Related Articles
Sreemati Ganguli,
"Silk Road Initiatives: An Alternative Future for Afghanistan," 23 April 2012
Bhavna Singh,
"China's Modernization Rush: Kashgar At Crossroads," 16 January 2012
D Suba Chandran,
"A 'Delhi Discourse' with Central Asia: Reviving Linkages," 10 January 2012
Chok Tsering,
"Kodari Road: Implications for Nepal, China and India," 30 November 2011
Ali Ahmed,
"AFSPA: The Renewed Debate," 11 November 2011
Firdaus Ahmed,
"AFSPA in J&K: Why should it go?," 3 November 2011
Jayasree Nath,
"Stilwell Route: What are its Economic Implications?," 31 October 2011

Browse by Publications

Commentaries 
Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 
China 
Myanmar 
Afghanistan 
Iran 
Pakistan 
India 
J&K  

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Indo-Pak 
Military 
Terrorism 
Naxalite Violence 
Nuclear 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Ladakh: Winds of Economic Change

China and India: Border Narratives from Ladakh

Chinese Incursion in Ladakh: Local Perspectives

Pakistan Elections 2013: Women and the Youth

Kashmir: Protests and the Return of the Fidayeen

Kargil: Echoes of Attacks against Minorities in Pakistan

J&K and the Indo-Pak Peace Process: New Delhi, Islamabad and the Hurriyat

The Malala Debate in Pakistan: Can it be Sustained?

Conversions in Zanskar: A Nascent Concern

Kashmir: Religious-Extremism on the Rise

Resilience amidst Conflict: Women of Kashmir

The Nimoo-Bazgo Hydroelectric Power Project: Potential and Future Prospects

Kashmir: Why is the Peace Fragile?

Reopening the Demchuk-Mansarovar Route: Exploring Possibilities

Kargil: Implications of a Full-Fledged Air Base for India

ADD TO:
Blink
Del.icio.us
Digg
Furl
Google
Simpy
Spurl
Y! MyWeb
Facebook
 
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2014
 January  February  March  April  May  June  July  August  September
 2013  2012  2011  2010  2009  2008  2007  2006
 2005  2004  2003  2002  2001  2000  1999  1998
 1997
 
 

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

 
Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map | IPCS Email
B 7/3 Lower Ground Floor, Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi 110029, INDIA.
Tel: 91-11-4100 1900, 4165 2556, 4165 2557, 4165 2558, 4165 2559 Fax: (91-11) 41652560
Email:
© Copyright 2014, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.
        Web Design by http://www.indiainternets.com