The Gilgit Agency (Urdu: گلگت ایجنسی), created in 1877 and overseen by a political agent of the Governor-General of British India, was a political unit of India, which managed the relations of the British with the princely states of Hunza and Nagar.
Map of Gilgit
Borders and status
In 1935, the Gilgit Agency leased the northern half of the Princely state of Jammu and Kashmir from the Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, Hari Singh, for a period of sixty years, and administered it.
The seat of the Agent was at Srinagar. The British lease of territory and the Gilgit Agency were abandoned by the British when Pakistan and India became independent countries in 1947. However, following the independence in 1947 and the First Kashmir War, the name "Gilgit Agency" was adopted by Pakistan to refer to the Northern part of Kashmir, but the name ceased to be used when the area was merged into the Northern Areas of Pakistan in 1970. Within Pakistan, the later "Gilgit Agency" was supervised directly from Islamabad, separately from the neighbouring state of Azad Kashmir and the princely states of Hunza and Nagar. It also did not include the district of Kargil and the subdivision of Ladakh which had been a part of the British Gilgit Agency. The Pakistani Agency bordered the Sinkiang region of China to the northeast, the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir to the south, Baltistan to east, and the North-West Frontier Province to the west.
The Treaty of Amritsar (1846) granted to Raja Gulab Singh all the Sikh territories between the Ravi and the Indus. In the north, these territories included Gilgit (the present Gilgit District), Astore (the present Astore District) and Chilas (presently a tehsil of the Diamir District). By 1860, the three areas were constituted as a Gilgit wazarat (district), and the princely states of Hunza and Nagar to the northeast accepted the suzerainty of the Maharaja Ranbir Singh.
The Treaty of Amritsar did not constrain the Maharaja from establishing relationships with external powers, and he is said to have had dealings with Russia, Afghanistan and Chinese Turkestan. The Brisith watched these developments with concern, especially in the light of Russian expansion in the north.
Establishment of the Agency
Ranbir Singh's successor Pratap Singh was a weak ruler. The British used the opportunity to establish an Agency in Gilgit in 1889, stationing a Political Agent who reported to the British Resident in Srinagar. The initial purpose of the Agency was to keep watch on the frontier and to restrain Hunza and Nagar from dealing with the Russians. Soon afterwards, the states of Hunza and Nagar were brought under the direct purview of the Gilgit Agency. The Jammu and Kashmir State Forces were stationed in a garrison at Gilgit, which were used by the Agency to keep order. They were replaced by a British-officered Gilgit Scouts in 1913.
Gradually, the princely states to the west of Gilgit, viz., Punial, Yasin, Kuh-Ghizar, Ishkoman and Chitral, were also brought under the purview of the Gilgit Agency. These areas were nominally under the suzerainty of Kashmir but were directly administered by the Agency. Following a rebellion 1892, Chitral was transferred to the Malakand Agency in the Frontier Areas. The remaining areas remained under the control of the Gilgit Agency, which administered them through governors.
The local rulers of these territories continued to appear at the Jammu and Kashmir Durbars until 1947. The events of independence and the subsequent invasion of Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistani tribals during the First Kashmir War led to most of the former Gilgit Wazarat becoming part of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, but most of the Ladakh Wazarat, including the Kargil area, became part of Indian-administered Kashmir. The Line of Control established at the end of the war is the current de facto border of India and Pakistan.
Initially, the Gilgit Agency was not absorbed into any of the provinces of West Pakistan, but was ruled directly by political agents of the federal government of Pakistan. In 1963, Pakistan entered into a treaty with China to transfer part of the Gilgit Agency to China, (the Trans-Karakoram Tract), with the proviso that the settlement was subject to the final solution of the Kashmir dispute.
The dissolution of the province of West Pakistan in 1970 was accompanied by change of the name of the Gilgit Agency to the Northern Areas. In 1974, the states of Hunza and Nagar and the independent valleys of Darel-Tangir, which had been de facto dependencies of Pakistan, were also incorporated into the Northern Areas.
Pakistan and India continue to dispute the sovereignty of the territories that had comprised the Gilgit Agency.