India on Monday lodged a strong protest with Pakistan over a move to conduct elections in Gilgit Baltistan, with New Delhi saying the region is an integral part of the country that had been “illegally and forcibly occupied” by Islamabad.
A senior Pakistani diplomat was served a “demarche”, or formal diplomatic representation over telephone, to lodge India’s strong protest against the Pakistani Supreme Court’s recent order allowing the setting up of a caretaker administration in Gilgit-Baltistan to hold fresh elections, people familiar with developments said.
“It was clearly conveyed that the entire Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, are an integral part of India by virtue of its fully legal and irrevocable accession,” the external affairs ministry said in a statement.
“The Government of Pakistan or its judiciary has no locus standi on territories illegally and forcibly occupied by it,” it said.
India claims the whole of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, including the Gilgit-Baltistan region, which was given near-provincial status by the Pakistan government in 2009.
On April 30, Pakistan’s Supreme Court allowed the government to amend the Government of Gilgit-Baltistan Order 2018 to set up a caretaker administration in the region to conduct fresh elections. The order was issued in response to a petition filed by the Imran Khan government.
The term of the current government in Gilgit-Baltistan is set to end on June 24 and elections have to be held within 60 days.
However, the external affairs ministry said India “completely rejects such actions and continued attempts to bring material changes in Pakistan-occupied areas of the Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir”, and instead, Pakistan “should immediately vacate all areas under its illegal occupation”.
“It was further conveyed that such actions 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,” the statement said.
The Indian government’s position on Gilgit Baltistan is reflected in the resolution passed by Parliament in 1994 by consensus, the statement added.
The resolution described Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of India and demanded Pakistan “must vacate” areas of the state “occupied through aggression”.
The people cited above, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the demarche was read out over telephone in view of the Covid-19 lockdown. In normal circumstances, a diplomat can be summoned to the external affairs ministry to receive the demarche.
Several other recent demarches were read out to Pakistani diplomats over telephone, the people said.