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As India is hit with General Elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is once again making headlines with a bold promise: to wrestle Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) from Pakistani control. This audacious vow, however, raises numerous questions and concerns, both domestically and internationally. While the BJP’s commitment to this goal might bolster nationalist sentiments and secure electoral gains, the practicalities and geopolitical ramifications of such an endeavor suggest it is far more complex than it appears.

PoK, with a population of nearly 5 million Muslims, presents a significant challenge. Analysts assert that the majority of this population harbors no desire to be “rescued” by India. Over the past seven decades, these residents have developed a distinct identity and political alignment, largely divergent from the Indian perspective. Therefore, any attempt to integrate PoK into India is likely to face severe local resistance.

The Pakistani military has spent the last 70 years fortifying PoK against potential Indian incursions. The strategic importance of the region has led to substantial investments in military infrastructure. A notable instance is the 1971 war when the Indian Army managed to capture parts of the Pir Panjal Range, only to relinquish control through diplomatic negotiations post-war. This historical precedent underscores the difficulty of achieving a lasting military solution in the region.

Pakistan has also strategically settled populations from Punjab, including retired soldiers, in PoK. This demographic engineering aims to create a loyal base supportive of Pakistani control. These settlers, along with the indigenous population, form a formidable socio-political barrier against any Indian attempts at annexation.

China’s involvement further complicates the situation. Over the years, China has invested heavily in PoK, particularly in infrastructure projects such as dams and power generation facilities. These investments are part of broader strategic initiatives, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which connects China to the Arabian Sea via Pakistan. Any Indian attempt to seize PoK would likely provoke a strong response from China, eager to protect its investments and strategic interests.

Some analysts argue that the BJP’s rhetoric on PoK might be more about strategy than actual intent. By raising the issue of PoK, India could be attempting to counter Pakistan’s claims over the Indian-administered Kashmir at international forums. This narrative could serve to shift the focus and create a more balanced discourse on the Kashmir issue, undermining Pakistan’s long-standing propaganda.

While the BJP’s promise to reclaim PoK might resonate with its electoral base, the realities on the ground suggest that such an endeavor is fraught with challenges. The local population’s resistance, Pakistan’s military preparedness, demographic strategies, and China’s vested interests all make the prospect of reclaiming PoK highly complex. Therefore, it seems more plausible that this promise is part of a broader strategy to counter Pakistan’s claims over Kashmir rather than a genuine actionable plan. As the elections approach, it will be crucial to see how this narrative evolves and what implications it holds for India-Pakistan relations and regional stability.