20:23 GMT13 May 2021
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    Located in northern Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan is a strategically important region bordering Afghanistan and China. The northernmost portion of larger Jammu and Kashmir, a disputed territory, was claimed by both India and Pakistan after partition in 1947. It is also a vital part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) infrastructure project.

    A day after Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan announced his government’s plan to accord provincial status to the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region of Gilgit-Baltistan, India's Defence Minister Rajnath Singh reiterated his country’s claim to the entire Jammu and Kashmir region.

    “Pakistan has an illegal occupation of Gilgit-Baltistan. Pakistan is now going to make Gilgit-Baltistan a state. Our government has said that the entire PoK [Pakistan occupied Kashmir] including Gilgit-Baltistan is an integral part of India”, wrote Singh in Hindi on Twitter.

    Khan on Sunday announced his government’s plan to convert Gilgit-Baltistan into its fifth province by changing its semi-autonomous status in the country. 

    The move drew sharp condemnation from India, which “firmly rejected” the move and 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.

    Pakistan, however, rejected India’s claim on Monday, calling it “irresponsible and unwarranted”.

    Political rallies are underway in the city of Gilgit in Pakistan-administered Kashmir, ahead of legislative elections on 15 November 2020. Pakistan’s Supreme Court earlier this year allowed the government to amend an administrative order to conduct general elections in the region. 

    India protested the move, calling it “cosmetic exercises intended to camouflage its illegal occupation”.

    South Asian rivals India and Pakistan have fought two wars over the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir. 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.

    Related:

    India Rejects Pakistani Plan to Upgrade Status of Disputed Kashmir Area
    Five Pakistani Policemen Reportedly Killed in Raid in Disputed Gilgit-Baltistan Area
    India Protests Pakistan Announcement of Elections in Disputed Gilgit-Baltistan Region
    Tags:
    disputed territory, dispute, Rajnath Singh, Jammu and Kashmir, India
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