NEW DELHI – India on Sunday summoned Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner to protest Islamabad’s order to integrate the region of Gilgit-Baltistan into the federal structure of the country.
An official press release from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the region belongs to India and that Pakistan’s action has no legal support.
“It was clearly conveyed that the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir which also includes the so-called ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’ areas is an integral part of India by virtue of its accession in 1947. Any action to alter the status of any part of the territory under the forcible and illegal occupation of Pakistan has no legal basis whatsoever, and is completely unacceptable,” the official press release said.
India’s response came in the backdrop of Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s speech to the Joint Session of the Gilgit-Baltistan Council and Legislative Assembly on Sunday. The executive order from Prime Minister Abbasi intends to begin legislative, judicial and administrative measures to integrate Gilgit-Baltistan with the rest of the federal structure of Pakistan.
As per the previous arrangement, Pakistan’s National Assembly received representation from five provinces — Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan, Federally Administered Tribal Agencies (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. This excluded the Gilgit-Baltistan region which remained on the Pakistani side following the war of 1947 and was governed directly from Islamabad. Following the declaration by PM Abbasi, the status of Gilgit-Baltistan is expected to change.
The idea of granting provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan gained momentum since work on the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passing through the region, demanded greater coordination between the local and central-level leaders.
India, which opposes the CPEC for reasons related to sovereignty, on Sunday reiterated its territorial claims over Gilgit-Baltistan and said PM Abbasi’s executive order to alter the status of the region will be against the position of the Indian Parliament which in 1994 passed a resolution in support of India’s claims over the undivided Jammu and Kashmir.
“It was further conveyed that such actions can neither hide the illegal occupation of part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir 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 from the Indian MEA said, asking Pakistan to vacate the Gilgit-Baltistan region.
India’s sharp response coincided with the Afghan government’s rejection of the Pakistan National Assembly’s merger of FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa during the weekend.