The story so far: On August 4, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a new political map of Pakistan. With this, Pakistan became the third country to launch a new political map after India and Nepal did the same in November 2019 and May 2020, respectively. India had reiterated its territorial claims in Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh with the new map; this triggered a reaction from Nepal which contested Indian claims in the Kalapani region of Pithoragarh district. The territorial claims of Pakistan are, however, of a far greater extent and challenge many of the past understandings and treaties.
What are the features of the new map?
The new political map of Pakistan has claimed the entire region of Jammu and Kashmir stretching all the way to the edge of Ladakh. The map also claims Junagarh and Manavadar, a former princely State and territory, respectively, that are part of present-day Gujarat. It leaves out a claim line at the eastern end of J&K indicating Pakistan’s willingness to make China a third party in the Kashmir issue. This clearly runs counter to the Simla Agreement which treated Kashmir as a bilateral matter. At the launch of the map, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said the border in that area will be fixed after resolving the Kashmir issue. Pakistan also claimed the entire territory and water bodies that fall in the Sir Creek region in the westernmost part of India.
Editorial | Cartographic challenge
How different is it from previous ones?
A similar map has been part of school textbooks of Pakistan for many years which highlights the territorial aspiration of Pakistan over the northern part of the subcontinent. The document also maintains bits of reality on the ground as it shows the Line of Control in Kashmir in a red-dotted line.
What will be the impact of this cartographical warfare?
The map is likely to lead to changes in Pakistan’s position on territorial disputes with India. By demanding the entire Jammu and Kashmir region, Mr. Khan is changing the main features of Pakistan’s Kashmir discourse as it includes the Jammu region prominently. The inclusion of Junagarh and Manavadar opens fundamental issues of territorial sovereignty of India. Manavadar, a princely territory, joined India on February 15, 1948 and Indian troops marched into Junagarh in September that year incorporating it into Indian territory. By normalising Islamabad’s claims over these former princely territories, Pakistan is most likely to assert its rights over the former princely State of Hyderabad as well. The map may be used to provide legal cover for some of Islamabad’s territorial ambitions, especially in Kashmir and Sir Creek.
What does Pakistan plan to gain by this exercise?
Sir Creek is a collection of water bodies that extend from the Arabian Sea deep inside the territory of Kutch and is rich in biodiversity and mangrove forests. India’s position on Sir Creek is based on the Kutch arbitration case of 1966-69. The new map can be used to reassert Pakistan’s claims regarding the Rann which it had lost in the arbitration conducted in Geneva. India’s position regarding Sir Creek is based on the fact that the arbitration had granted the entire Rann and its marshy areas to India while leaving the solid land across the Rann to Pakistan. By demanding the demarcation to shift towards the eastern bank, Pakistan appears to be going back also on the spirit of the Rann of Kutch arbitration where the overwhelming evidence of maps supported India’s claims over the Rann and its marshlands.
Are there any claims on its western borders?
The map is silent about territorial claims in the west and northwest of Pakistan. It indicates Islamabad’s acceptance of the Durand Line as the border with Afghanistan.The reality on the ground however shows problems that continue to haunt Pakistan on that front as well where law and order has been difficult to maintain because of free movement of armed fighters. A deadly clash between Afghan civilians and Pakistani troops led to the loss of at least 20 Afghan lives during the last Eid ul Azha holidays when Afghans wanted to cross to the other side of the traditional Pakhtoon territory which is part of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province. The resultant situation has placed Afghan and Pakistani troops in a confrontational position.
Will the map trigger a diplomatic battle?
While launching the map, Mr. Khan described it as a document that depicts the aspiration of the people of Pakistan. However, by describing it as the new political map of Pakistan that will be showcased to the world, Mr. Khan has indicated that the map will eventually trigger diplomatic battles with India as it negates previous understandings. In Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs said Pakistan’s new political map is an exercise in “political absurdity”.