Pakistan’s move to name Gilgit-Baltistan as its fifth province is meant to “camouflage its illegal occupation” of the area but it cannot “hide the grave human rights violations, exploitation and denial of freedom” of the people for over seven decades, India said as Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced provisional provincial status for Gilgit-Baltistan this afternoon. “We call upon Pakistan to immediately vacate all areas under its illegal occupation,” the foreign ministry said.
Gilgit-Baltistan — part of Jammu and Kashmir — was illegally occupied by Pakistan after partition in 1947. Earlier this year, the Pakistan Supreme Court allowed the government to conduct elections in the region. The election will be held on November 15, Imran Khan declared, despite India’s opposition and huge anger in the region, which had a semi-autonomous status.
The Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the area of so-called “Gilgit-Baltistan”, are an integral part of India by virtue of the legal, complete and irrevocable accession of Jammu and Kashmir to the Union of India in 1947,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava.
The government said it “firmly rejects” Pakistan’s attempt “to bring material changes to a part of Indian territory, under its illegal and forcible occupation”.
Instead of seeking to alter the status of these Indian territories, we call upon Pakistan to immediately vacate all areas under its illegal occupation,” the ministry said.
Pakistan’s move comes more than a year after India ended the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 and bifurcated it into two Union Territories. Over the last year, Pakistan has knocked on many doors including the United Nations and several international groupings, but its complaints have not been heard. Barring China, most nations have agreed that it it is an internal matter of India.
Recently, Saudi Arabia, a key ally of Pakistan, had removed Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan from the Pakistan map on its new banknote after India asked it to take “urgent corrective steps” about the “gross misrepresentation”.
There was another provocation in August — on the first anniversary of the scrapping of Article 370 — as Imran Khan’s government released a new “political map” which included Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and parts of western Gujarat as part of its territory.
Describing it as “political absurdity” and a “ridiculous assertion”, New Delhi said it “confirms the reality of Pakistan’s obsession with territorial aggrandisement supported by cross-border terrorism”.
Pakistan’s move also comes amid huge opposition from its domestic groups, which accuse it of systematically exploiting the region.