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India protests Pak's Gilgit order

india Updated: Sep 12, 2009 14:32 IST

India on Friday protested against Pakistan's new autonomy package for the Northern Areas of Kashmir, renamed as Gilgit-Baltistan, and the construction of the proposed 7,000 MW Bunji dam in this region with Chinese assistance. Pakistan, however, said the protest was uncalled for.

The external affairs ministry summoned Pakistan's deputy high commissioner Riffat Masood and handed over note verbale (formal protest) in these two cases and asserted that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India.

"The Indian government protested through diplomatic channels today against the government of Pakistan's so-called 'Gilgit-Baltistan Empowerment and Self Governance Order-2009'," the external affairs ministry said in New Delhi in a statement.

Attacking Pakistan's alleged human rights record in the Northern Areas, New Delhi said, "Pakistan has for the past six decades denied the basic democratic rights to the people in those parts of the state of Jammu and Kashmir under its illegal occupation.

"The entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India by virtue of its accession in 1947," the ministry said.
The Pakistan Foreign Office, however, rejected the Indian protest over 'Gilgit-Baltistan (Empowerment and Self-Governance) Order', reminding that the government of India has no locus standi in the matter, the Online reported.

India's deputy high commissioner in Islamabad was called to the Foreign Office by director general (South Asia) to emphasise that Pakistan rejects "Indian interference" in the issue and also rejects the claim that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India.

The so-called Gilgit-Baltistan order "is yet another cosmetic exercise intended to camouflage Pakistan's illegal occupation", India's protest said.

The Aug 30 order gives the areas rights akin to those of Pakistan's four provinces, but without actually conferring such a status constitutionally.

The region, now renamed Gilgit-Baltistan, will vote for a legislative assembly and will be governed by a chief minister, replacing direct rule by Islamabad.

The Northern Areas are seen by both India and Pakistan as part of the larger Jammu and Kashmir issue which they are trying to resolve in their composite dialogue.

New Delhi also protested the 7,000 MW Bunji hydroelectric project being built in the Pakistan-administered Kashmir with Chinese assistance.

"The government of India lodged a protest today over the proposed construction of the Bunji hydroelectric project in a part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir under illegal occupation of Pakistan," external affairs ministry spokesperson Vishnu Prakash told reporters while reading from a statement.

Pakistan and China signed a memorandum of understanding in August for the construction of a dam at Bunji in Astore district in Gilgit-Baltistan, earlier known as the Northern Areas, during President Asif Ali Zardari's Beijing visit.

Earlier, New Delhi had also protested the construction of the Neelam Jhelum hydropower project and Bhasa dam in what it calls Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir, which is referred to as 'Azaad Kashmir' by Islamabad.

The dam, one of the eight hydel projects shortlisted for construction with a capacity of generating 7,000 MW of electricity, has triggered anxieties in India about growing Chinese activities in Pakistani Kashmir.