India has taken note of Pakistan’s illegitimate occupation of Gilgit-Baltistan- a part of India’s integral territory. This follows a directive by Pakistan’s Supreme Court allowing the conduct of General Elections in Gilgit-Baltistan.
The Ministry of External Affairs has lodged a strong protest against Pakistan’s actions in the illegally occupied territory, and India has reportedly conveyed it to Pakistan that the entire Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, including areas of Gilgit-Baltistan, are an integral part of India and has also asked Islamabad to immediately vacate India’s territory which is currently under the former’s illegal occupation.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court recently went out of its way to allow an amendment to the Government of Gilgit-Baltistan Order of 2018 to conduct General Elections in the Indian territory.
In its statement, the MEA has hit back at Islamabad, saying, “India demarched senior Pakistan diplomat and lodged a strong protest to Pakistan against Supreme Court of Pakistan order on the so-called ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’.”
The MEA has taken a sharp jibe at Islamabad by specifically stating “so-called ‘Gilgit-Baltistan’.” This alludes to the fact that Gilgit-Baltistan is a misnomer for Pakistan-occupied territory of India’s territory of Ladakh. The strategically located territory of Gilgit-Baltistan is legitimately vested in India’s Ladakh Union Territory.
The MEA added, “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.”
India has also made it clear that neither Islamabad nor its judiciary has any locus standi on territories “illegally and forcibly” occupied by Pakistan. The MEA statement further read, “India completely rejects such actions and continued attempts to bring material changes in Pakistan occupied areas of the Indian territory of Jammu and Kashmir.”
New Delhi has also made it amply clear that Pakistan’s recent actions can neither hide its “illegal actions” in the occupied areas of the Union Territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh nor can they downplay the “grave human rights violations, exploitation and denial of freedom” to the people residing in these occupied territories.
While Pakistan’s Supreme Court wants to hold elections in Gilgit-Baltistan, the fact remains that Islamabad keeps on denying the most basic of human rights of the people residing in Pakistan-occupied parts of Indian territory.
Even the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) itself has slammed the Imran Khan government for pursuing the policy of subjugating human rights in the Gilgit-Baltistan region.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan also recognised how Gilgit-Baltistan was accorded a Province-like status only in 2009. However, the territory continues to be outside Pakistan’s constitutional set up. In fact, Pakistan has consistently refused to incorporate the territory as it would prejudice its position in the Kashmir dispute.
Pakistan has also been trying to alter the demographics of the region as part of its geopolitical ambitions. Pakistan is a Sunni majority State, while Gilgit-Baltistan is a non-Sunni majority region.
In 1974, Pakistan had abolished the State Subject rule in Gilgit Baltistan resulting in demographic changes to the territory. People from other areas are allowed to buy property in Gilgit-Baltistan, and the land of the locals in Gilgit-Baltistan has also been getting grabbed as part of Chinese investments under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) projects– a fact that even HRCP too has recognised.
Even during the COVID-19 Pandemic that has triggered a public health emergency, Islamabad has been using Gilgit-Baltistan as a dumping ground and a device for crisis-profiteering.
Recently, there were reports of Pakistan sending Coronavirus patients from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to the territories under its occupation- Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) and Gilgit-Baltistan.
Pakistan’s actions have further crippled the already fragile state of healthcare infrastructure in PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan. Moreover, there have also been reports of residents of the region requesting the Indian government to send food via India’s Rajouri and Jammu due to crippling food shortage in the region amidst the Coronavirus outbreak.
Profiteering out of PoK and Gilgit-Baltistan’s misery, the flour mills in Pakistan’s Punjab province are retailing flour bags at extraordinary rates which are further compounding the troubles of people in the Indian territories under Pakistan’s illegal occupation.
New Delhi has however made it clear that is not going to tolerate Islamabad’s illegal actions in the occupied parts of India’s two Union Territories- Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir. With this India has sent across a loud and clear message to Pakistan- pack your bags and immediately exit Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir.