India on Sunday slammed Pakistan for its attempt to accord provincial status to the "so-called Gilgit-Baltistan", saying it is intended to camouflage the "illegal" occupation of the region by Islamabad.
Spokesperson in the ministry of external affairs Anurag Srivastava said India "firmly rejects" the attempt by Pakistan to bring material changes to a part of Indian territory which is under Islamabad's "illegal and forcible occupation" and asked the neighbouring country to immediately vacate such areas.
Srivastava's response came following a media query about Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's comments in Gilgit on Sunday about his government's decision to accord "provisional provincial status" to the Gilgit-Baltistan region.
"I reiterate that the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, including the area of so-called 'Gilgit-Baltistan', are an integral part of India by virtue of the legal, complete and irrevocable accession of Jammu and Kashmir to the Union of India in 1947," the MEA spokesperson said.
He said the government of Pakistan has no locus standi on territories "illegally and forcibly" occupied by it and that the latest move will not be able to hide the "grave" human rights violations in these Pakistan occupied territories.
"Such attempts by Pakistan, intended to camouflage its illegal occupation, cannot hide the grave human rights violations, exploitation and denial of freedom for over seven decades to the people residing in these Pakistan occupied territories," Srivastava said.
"Instead of seeking to alter the status of these Indian territories, we call upon Pakistan to immediately vacate all areas under its illegal occupation," he said.
Pakistan has announced holding elections for the legislative assembly of Gilgit-Baltistan later this month.
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 authorizing the Prime Minister of Pakistan to legislate on an array of subjects.
Following the verdict, India issued a demarche to a senior Pakistani diplomat 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.