Pakistan has conveyed its concern to the UN over the depiction of Jammu and Kashmir in India’s draft geospatial information bill, but New Delhi made it clear on Tuesday that Islamabad has no say in the country’s internal legislative process.
The draft bill, which triggered protests from India’s internet activists, envisages stringent penalties for the wrong depiction of India in maps, including a fine of up to Rs 100 crore and a jail term of up to seven years. It also proposes to restrict the use of real-time mapping of data.
Pakistan contended India’s official map in the geospatial information regulation bill violated UN Security Council resolutions by depicting the “disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir as part of India”.
“Pakistan has expressed serious concern to the UN Secretary General and the President of the UN Security Council, through letters by our permanent representative in New York, with regard to the Indian government’s efforts to introduce a controversial ‘Geospatial Information Regulation Bill’ in the Indian Parliament,” said a statement issued by the Foreign Office in Islamabad.
It described the Indian map as “factually incorrect and legally untenable”.
Hours later, external affairs ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said in New Delhi the proposed bill is an “entirely internal legislative matter of India since the whole of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India”.
“Pakistan or any other party has no locus standi in the matter,” he said. Swarup added the Indian government “firmly rejects Pakistan’s repeated and increasing attempts to impose on the international community matters that India has always been open to address bilaterally with Pakistan”.
The statement from Pakistan’s Foreign Office said the Indian government intended to “penalise the individuals and organisations who depict Jammu and Kashmir as a disputed territory as per the United Nations Security Council resolutions”.
Pakistan’s letter called on the UN to uphold Security Council resolutions and to “urge India to stop such acts which are in violation of international law”.
“We have urged the international community and the UN to fulfil their commitment with the people of Jammu and Kashmir by holding an independent and impartial plebiscite under UN auspices,” the statement said.
India has for long insisted the Kashmir issue must be settled bilaterally and without the intervention of a third party. Pakistan’s current government has repeatedly raised Kashmir at the UN and asked the world community to play a role in resolving the dragging issue.
The term geospatial refers to data and images associated with a particular location and collected through cameras on satellites, unmanned aerial vehicles, aircraft and balloons.
The Indian government has said the bill’s objective is not to ban services that provide geospatial data but to regulate them for several reasons, including securing the country’s strategic installations.
Many applications give a 360-degree view of key towns and cities around the world which, security agencies believe, could be used by terror groups to plan attacks.
(With inputs from HTC in New Delhi)