NEW DELHI, India/ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

India and Pakistan on Monday summoned each other’s senior diplomats over a recent ruling by the Pakistani Supreme Court on the status of the Pakistani-administered northern region in Kashmir of Gilgit-Baltistan.

The Indian Foreign Ministry lodged an official protest with a senior Pakistani diplomat, conveying that the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and of Ladakh, including the areas of Gilgit and Baltistan, were integral parts of India by virtue of their legal and irrevocable accession.

“The Government of Pakistan or its judiciary has no locus standi on territories illegally and forcibly occupied by it. India completely rejects such actions and continued attempts to bring material changes in Pakistan occupied areas of the Indian territory of Jammu & Kashmir. Instead, Pakistan should immediately vacate all areas under its illegal occupation,” said the Ministry of External Affairs in a statement.

Meanwhile, Pakistan also summoned the most senior Indian diplomat in Islamabad, rejecting New Delhi’s concerns over recent elections in Gilgit Baltistan.

“It was clearly conveyed that the Indian claim over the occupied state of Jammu and Kashmir as an ‘integral part’ of India had no legal basis whatsoever. The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is a ‘disputed’ territory recognized as such by the international community,” the Pakistani Foreign Ministry said in a subsequent statement.

Islamabad emphasized that India’s position on Gilgit-Baltistan could not obscure alleged atrocities by New Delhi against Kashmiris in Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir.

Pakistan also asked India to lift restrictions and a communications blackout in Kashmir, as well as to release all Kashmiri leaders and youth detained since August 2019.

On Thursday, Pakistan’s top court granted permission to the central government to set up an interim government and conduct the next elections in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region as the incumbent provincial government’s five year term will come to an end on June 24.

Gilgit-Baltistan, which constitutes the northern portion of the larger Kashmir region, is administered by Pakistan and disputed by India since 1947.

Jammu and Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in parts, and claimed by both in full. A small sliver is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, the two countries have fought four wars — in 1948, 1965, 1971 and 1999 — three of them over Kashmir.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict in the region since 1989.

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