Pak announces polls in Gilgit-Baltistan, MEA protests

China nudges Pakistan to turn Gilgit-Baltistan into province; India opposes

New Delhi says Islamabad has no locus standi on Gilgit-Baltistan

Representative image. Credit: iStock

With Beijing nudging Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government to elevate Gilgit-Baltistan as the fifth province of Pakistan, New Delhi on Tuesday underlined that Islamabad had no locus standi on the region as it was an integral part of India.

New Delhi conveyed its strong protest to Islamabad over the Khan Government’s recent move to hold polls on November 15 next to elect the third legislative assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan, which India claims to be its own and accuses Pakistan of illegally occupying.

"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 (J&K) 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 Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said in a statement issued in New Delhi on Tuesday. “The Government of Pakistan has no locus standi on territories illegally and forcibly occupied by it.”

The Pakistan Government held polls in Gilgit-Baltistan in 2009 and 2015 – electing a legislative assembly, despite protests from New Delhi. It is now preparing to hold the third assembly elections in the region on November 15.

The Khan Government recently decided to elevate the status of Gilgit-Baltistan to a fully-fledged province of Pakistan with all constitutional rights, including representation in the upper and lower houses of parliament of the country.

New Delhi suspects that Islamabad’s all-weather ally Beijing may have nudged the Khan Government to turn Gilgit-Baltistan into a province of Pakistan. With several projects of the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) located in Gilgit-Baltistan, Beijing wants Islamabad to end the ambiguity about the status of the region.

Islamabad’s move on Gilgit-Baltistan appears to be an attempt to respond to New Delhi’s August 5, 2019 decision to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and reorganise the erstwhile state into two Union Territories.

New Delhi earlier rejected the recent actions by Pakistan Government on Gilgit-Baltistan, including the so-called “Gilgit-Baltistan (Elections and Caretaker Government) Amendment Order 2020”. It also opposed continued attempts by Islamabad to bring “material changes in areas under illegal and forcible occupation” of Pakistan.

Such actions can hide neither 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 territories illegally occupied by Pakistan for the past 70 years, Anurag Srivastava, the MEA spokesperson in New Delhi, said. “These are cosmetic exercises intended to camouflage its illegal occupation. We call upon Pakistan to immediately vacate all areas under its illegal occupation.”