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India on Tuesday said Pakistan’s attempts to hold elections in Gilgit-Baltistan next month were a “cosmetic" exercise “intended to camouflage its illegal occupation" of the region.

The Indian foreign ministry in a statement said actions like holding of elections in the region can neither hide the "illegal occupation" of parts of Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh by Islamabad nor the "grave human rights violations and exploitation" of people in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir.

The Indian statement comes after Pakistan announced that elections for the legislative assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan will be held on 15 November. In a ruling earlier this year, the Pakistan Supreme Court had allowed Islamabad to amend a 2018 administrative order to conduct polls in the region. The Gilgit-Baltistan Order of 2018 provided for administrative changes, including authorising the prime minister of Pakistan to legislate on an array of subjects, PTI said.

Following the verdict, India issued a demarche to a senior Pakistani diplomat in the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi in protest against the court ruling. The polls in Gilgit-Baltistan were to be held on 18 August, but have been postponed due to the covid-19 pandemic.

"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 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 Indian statement said.

Pakistan has no locus standi on territories "illegally and forcibly occupied" by it, it said.

"Action such as these 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," it said.

"These are cosmetic exercises intended to camouflage its illegal occupation. We call upon Pakistan to immediately vacate all areas under its illegal occupation," the statement added.

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