Gilgit Baltistan, high in the northern ranges of Kashmir, has been in the news of late due to the reported presence of a large number of Chinese troops there.
Senge Hasnan Sering, the director of the Gilgit Baltistan National Congress, believes the number of Chinese troops in the region could be lot more than 11,000.
Born in Skardo district, Baltistan, Sering finished an engineering degree from Pakistan and eventually earned a Masters in Development Studies from England.
A cultural activist during his college days in the early 1990s, he was instrumental in reviving the indigenous Balti script, and went on to work as a language expert with the Baltistan Cultural Foundation. In 2009, he was selected as a fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, Delhi.
Over the past 12 years, he has presented papers on cultural and political issues of Gilgit-Baltistan at several international universities, think tanks and rights organizations. Describing himself as a ''rights defender,'' he is now working on three books, pertaining to human rights violations in Gilgit-Baltistan, Chinese projects in Gilgit-Baltistan, and Baltistan's quest for cultural identity respectively.
In an interview to Ramananda Sengupta, Sering analyses the situation in Gligit-Baltistan, and asserts that both 'Pakistan and China should stop their interventions and investment in the region'.
Tell us about Gilgit Baltistan, and your interest in Kashmir.
Gilgit-Baltistan is part of the former Princely State of Jammu & Kashmir, and we have been affected deeply by the unresolved issue. As a cultural and human rights defender, I have great interest in the Kashmir issue. The interest also stems from the fact that the Sufis and Shias of Gilgit-Baltistan share religious ties with Kashmiris and Ladakhis. Ethnically and linguistically, the people of Baltistan are related to the Ladakhis while the people of Gilgit, Chitral and Kashmir are Dardic, who speak related languages. All our historical trade routes open towards Ladakh, Kashmir and Tibet. Kashmir and Tibet gave us civilization, which is now plagued by violence, extremism and drug culture introduced by Pakistanis.
We want to re-establish relations with other parts of Jammu & Kashmir to revive our social values and traditions. The socio-economic development of Gilgit-Baltistan is something that every citizen of the region, including myself, aspires for. We believe that opening of the Line of Control and resumption of trade over the historical trade routes between Gilgit-Baltistan and Ladakh are critical for alleviating economic hardships, especially in the districts of Astore, Skardo, Kharmang, Gangche and Shingo-Shigar.
Hence, resuming links with Kashmir will help solve both socio-political as well as economic problems of Gilgit-Baltistan.
Image: Senge Hasnan Sering addresses the 14th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, June 4.Also read: Return of the Dragon | Gilgit Baltistan: Nightmare in Paradise