Union Minister and former Army Chief General VK Singh recently stated that Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) would eventually merge with India “on its own.” His comments come amidst demands from local Shia Muslims to open border crossings between POK and India.

“POK apne aap Bharat ke andar aayega. Thoda thand rakh. (POK will merge with India on its own. Wait for some time)”, he told reporters in Rajasthan’s Dausa, where Assembly polls are slated to be held later this year.

General Singh’s statements reflect India’s long-held position that POK is an integral part of the country under illegal Pakistani occupation. However, experts say that while eventual integration remains India’s goal, the merger cannot happen unilaterally. Significant groundwork would be required before POK’s reunification with India can become a reality.

India’s Claims on POK

The former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India in 1947. However, a portion of the state came under Pakistani control after tribal invaders backed by the Pakistani army occupied Gilgit-Baltistan and what Pakistan calls “Azad” Jammu and Kashmir. India has consistently maintained that POK remains an inherent part of India under illegal Pakistani occupation.

Successive Indian governments have criticized Pakistan for promoting terrorism and violence in POK and encouraging demographic changes in the region. India has also objected to China’s infrastructure projects in POK under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

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Prospects for Eventual Merger

While eventual reintegration with India has been a long-term goal, experts say unilateral merger cannot happen in current circumstances. Significant groundwork would be required before the merger can become a realistic possibility.

Integrating POK with India would require building local stakeholder consensus and ensuring that the rights of POK residents are protected post-merger. India would also need to diplomatically isolate Pakistan while limiting China’s involvement in the region.

Military action to forcibly reintegrate POK would be counterproductive. A patient, pragmatic approach focused on winning hearts and minds would improve prospects for reunification when conditions allow.

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The Way Forward

General Singh’s comments reflect India’s consistent position that POK remains an integral part of the country under illegal occupation. However, unilateral merger is unlikely in the near future. Reintegrating POK with India would require a gradual, multi-pronged strategy focused on isolating Pakistan diplomatically while building stakes for eventual reunification.

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