New Delhi: India on Tuesday said it has conveyed its strong protest to Pakistan over announcement of elections to the "so-called Gilgit-Baltistan" legislative assembly next month, holding that the "cosmetic exercises" are intended to camouflage the "illegal" occupation of the region by Islamabad.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) 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.
Pakistan has announced that elections for the legislative assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan will be held on November 15.
"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 MEA said in a statement.
The MEA said Pakistan has no locus standi on territories "illegally and forcibly occupied" by it.
"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 MEA said.
The MEA also asked Pakistan to immediately vacate all areas under its illegal occupation.
In a ruling earlier this year, the Pakistan Supreme Court allowed Islamabad to amend a 2018 administrative order to conduct general elections 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.
Following the verdict, India issued a demarche to a senior Pakistani diplomat here and lodged a strong protest over the apex court ruling.
The polls in Gilgit-Baltistan were to be held on August 18, but Pakistan's election commission on July 11 postponed them due to the coronavirus pandemic.