By Ajmal Masood
The importance of silk routes remained as much as it had during the great game. Around 1840’s the great game was started between Tsarist Empire of Russia and British India. It was a quest for geopolitical locations of Central Asia, including Gilgit Baltistan. In the history, the network of silk routes had great role in Tsarist-British expansionism in high Asia. In the era of British India, Gilgit agency was created under the direct protection of British forces.
The sole purpose was to stop Russian invasion and expansion through the passes in the Pamirs and the Karakorams.
In the same fashion, today the web of these silk routes plays similar role in the china’s political adventure of economic expansionism.
For instance, the construction of Karakoram high way (new name of old silk route), which connects south Asia, china and central Asia. The recent CPEC and OROB initiative indicates a new pattern of great game in 21st century.
The formation of organized, systematic and advance structure of new high ways suggests that, it is a greater game than great game in 19th century. The physical infrastructure of these new corridors not means mere trade and travel rather it can cause greater changes such as new ideas, cultures, languages, social interactions and even diseases. The forces of Sino expansionism will bring problems as well as opportunities.
However, the inhabitants along the silk route, particularly the people of Gilgit Baltistan have to accept the reality that such a sea change cannot be prevented. As the tendency to seek Chinese language in the youth of Hunza indicates the Sino cultural influence in the region. GB seems likely to be first piece of geographical puzzle, which would be effected by future imperial power.
The solutions for such inevitable revolutionizing wave (the greater Game) approaching down from china are; first is to accept reasonable change which will give positive consequences in future and second is to reject negative change which will be cause of cultural lost. The acceptance of reasonable change also includes doing participation in the economic process and demand for equal rights in any kind of developmental project. Gilgit baltistan being alienated in CPEC, despite its geopolitical importance in connecting the OROB to the rest of the world. Therefore, the dwellers along the Karakoram High way should be given special privilege and incentives in these projects such as free trade zone without tariff barriers, cultural and educational exchanges for the youth, international flights to Gilgit for the tourism development etc.
In these Chinese corridors there will be flow of commerce, advance communications, social interactions, ideologies etc, which would impact and influence on the traditions, norms, values even faith of the masses in its way. The matter to ponder for the people of GB is that, in past they were at end point in British or western imperialism and today future imperialism is at the doorstep, which can cause much impact.
Ajmal Masood student of Political Sciences in School of Political Sciences and International Relations, Qauid Azam University Islamabad Ajmal is a political analyst and social activist hailing from Hunza Valley Gilgit Baltistsn, he is co-founder of Young Activists Movement, an emerging youth movement for activism in human rights, education and peace.