New Delhi: India on Thursday slammed Pakistan’s reported attempts to declare Gilgit-Baltistan— also known as the Northern Areas—as Pakistan’s fifth province describing the move as illegal and completely unacceptable.
“The entire State of Jammu and Kashmir acceded to India in 1947. It has been, is and will always be an integral part of India. A part of Jammu and Kashmir has been under illegal occupation of Pakistan. Any unilateral step by Pakistan to alter the status of that part will have no basis in law and will be completely unacceptable,” Indian foreign ministry spokesman Gopal Baglay told reporters.
“I must also say that such a step will not camouflage the illegality of Pakistan’s occupation of parts of Jammu and Kashmir and the gravely concerning and serious human rights violations there (in the Northern Areas), as well as denial of democracy to the people there,” he said.
India’s outburst follows reports from Pakistan stating that a committee headed by Sartaj Aziz, adviser to the Pakistan prime minister on foreign affairs, had proposed giving the status of a province to Gilgit-Baltistan.
Pakistan’s minister for inter-provincial coordination Riaz Hussain Pirzada told Geo TV on Wednesday that the “committee recommended that Gilgit-Baltistan should be made a province of Pakistan.”
He also reportedly said that a constitutional amendment would be made to change the status of the region, through which the $46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) passes.
India opposes the CPEC precisely because it passes through areas that it considers part of its territory.
At present, Pakistan has four provinces—Punjab, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. There are news reports that China has concerns about the unsettled status of Gilgit-Baltistan—which could have prompted this move by Pakistan to attempt a change in its status.
In 2015, India had objected to Pakistan holding polls in Gilgit Baltistan. Then Indian foreign ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup had said India was “concerned” by Pakistani attempts to “absorb these territories.”
On a visit by three Indian parliamentarians to Pakistan and whether it could be interpreted as an attempt to normalise relations with Pakistan, Baglay said that the three were there to attend a meet of Asian Parliamentary Assembly and it should not be linked to any other issue.