India on Tuesday expressed its reservations on Pakistan’s plans to hold an election in the disputed Gilgit-Baltistan region. India has repeatedly told Islamabad that it could not make material changes in areas under its illegal occupation.
Pakistan wants to hold the legislative assembly elections of Gilgit-Baltistan on November 15. This is the first step towards declaring the region a full-fledged province, following which the Pakistan government will move towards making the region a full-fledged province.
“The Pakistan government has no locus standi on territories illegally and forcibly occupied by it. We have seen reports regarding announcement of elections to the so-called ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’ legislative assembly to be held on November 15, 2020. The government of India has conveyed its strong protest to the government of Pakistan and reiterated that the entire union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the areas of so-called Gilgit and Baltistan, are an integral part of India by virtue of its accession in 1947,” the Indian external affairs ministry said in a statement.
India has also opposed recent actions of the Pakistani establishment like the so-called ‘Gilgit-Baltistan (Elections and Caretaker Government) Amendment Order 2020’ and the neighbouring country’s repeated attempts to bring material changes in areas under its illegal and forcible occupation.
Pakistan can “neither hide the illegal occupation of parts of union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh by Pakistan nor the grave human rights violations, exploitation and denial of freedom to the people residing in Pakistan occupied territories for the past seven decades”, it added.
“These are cosmetic exercises intended to camouflage its illegal occupation. We call upon Pakistan to immediately vacate all areas under its illegal occupation,” the statement said.
Pakistan’s wish to hold an election in Gilgit-Baltistan is supposedly backed by Pakistan’s powerful military. The prospect of Gilgit-Baltistan found a mention in a recent meeting between Pakistan’s opposition leaders and the army chief, Gen Qamar Bajwa, and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed. For Prime Minister Imran Khan and his party Tehreek-e-Insaf, it could serve as a good poll plank in the upcoming election.
The two countries have raised the issue in the UN several times and both have had different takes on the status of Gilgit-Baltistan, which was once a part of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.