Following Pakistan's announcement to hold legislative assembly elections in Gilgit-Baltistan on 15 November, India has lodged a strong protest, calling it “cosmetic exercises intended to camouflage its illegal occupation”.
New Delhi has also asked Islamabad to “immediately vacate all areas (Gilgit-Baltistan) under its illegal occupation”.
“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 Government of Pakistan has no locus standi on territories illegally and forcibly occupied by it”, reads a statement issued by India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
India also rejected Pakistan’s plan to declare the region as a separate state.
Pakistan’s Supreme Court earlier this year allowed the government to amend an administrative order to conduct general elections in the Gilgit-Baltistan region. India at the time issued a demarche to a senior Pakistani diplomat and lodged a protest over the court ruling.
Following clearance by the top court, President Arif Alvi issued a notification on Wednesday, 24 September, announcing the date of elections.
Polls were initially intended to be held on 18 August, but were postponed by Pakistan’s federal poll body in view of the prevailing COVID-19 situation.
There are 33 seats in the legislative assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan. While elections are to be held for 27 seats, the rest are reserved for technocrats and women.
Both countries claim the Kashmir region as their territory, but have governed it in parts since they gained independence from British colonial rule in 1947.