Prime Minister Imran Khan said his government will give provisional provincial status to part of Kashmir. This has irked India and its government.
PM’s proposal would apply to Gilgit-Baltistan. It is Pakistan’s only land link to China, which is the northern part of the larger Kashmir region.
Both Pakistan and India have claimed all of Kashmir since independence 73 years ago. They have fought two wars over the territory.
“We have made a decision to grant provisional provincial status to Gilgit-Baltistan, which has long been the demand here,” PM said in Gilgit’s speech.
Pakistan angers India
India said it “firmly rejects the attempt by Pakistan to bring material changes to a part of Indian territory, under its illegal and forcible occupation.”
Last year India announced changes to the status of Kashmir. It took away some of the region’s privileges. Pakistan’s action is likely to be viewed in both countries as a partial tit-for-tat response.
Both sides control parts of Kashmir. It is divided between them by a United Nations-mandated “Line of Control”. UN observers are still stationed in the region.
Kashmir has carried a vague constitutional status in both countries since 1947 to accommodate for a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution on the dispute. PM’s proposal will bring the region closer to the status of Pakistan’s other federating provinces.
PM said the decision was within the scope of the UNSC resolution. He gave no time-frame for its implementation. Such a move would require a constitutional amendment in Pakistan, which must be passed by two-thirds of Pakistan’s parliament.
What you need to know about Gilgit-Baltistan!
PM’s visit to the area comes ahead of an election for a G-B Legislative Assembly on November 15. Meanwhile, the body was created in 2009. Moreover, it has few powers, and Islamabad governs the region mainly.
India’s foreign ministry has already objected to the election, saying Pakistan illegally occupies the territory.
Strategically located G-B has an estimated population of 1.2 million. Moreover, it borders Afghanistan and China. G-B is at the heart of the $65 billion China Pakistan Economic Corridor infrastructure development plan.
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