ISLAMABAD: Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan said on Tuesday his cabinet had approved a new ‘political map’ which should be considered the official map of the country both inside Pakistan and internationally.
An image of the map was shared with Pakistani media by the PM’s office in Pakistan and showed areas in the Himalayan Kashmir valley disputed with India as a part of Pakistan with these words printed across the relevant parts of the map: “Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir. (Disputed territory — Final status to be decided in line with relevant UNSC [United Nations Security Council] resolutions.)”
A dotted line that previously marked the disputed areas has been removed from the new map.
The UN Security Council adopted several resolutions in 1948 and in the 1950s on the dispute between India and Pakistan over the region, including one which says a plebiscite should be held to determine the future of mostly Muslim Kashmir. Another resolution also calls upon both sides to “refrain from making any statements and from doing or causing to be done or permitting any acts which might aggravate the situation.”
But Pakistan’s move to release the new map signals a hardening of Islamabad’s position over a decades-long border row that has strained ties between the South Asian neighbors.
“This is a historic day in Pakistan,” PM Khan said in a televised address. “Today we are bringing a new political map of Pakistan before the world.”
“From today, in all of Pakistan, our official map of Pakistan will be this, which has been passed by the cabinet of Pakistan.” he said. “From now, in schools, colleges, internationally, this is the map that will appear.”
The PM said his cabinet, leaders of Kashmir as well as opposition parties in Pakistan had all endorsed the map.
In an address following the PM’s, Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the dotted line in the old map that indicated a ‘disputed territory’ has been done away with. He said Siachen, which always belonged to Pakistan, had also been included in the new map.
The Siachen Glacier in the Karakorum range is known as the highest militarized zone in the world. Thousands of Indian and Pakistani troops contest an area at altitudes above 20,000 feet where they must deal with altitude sickness, high winds, frostbite and temperatures as low as minus 60 degrees Celsius.
Qureshi claimed that the “Kashmiri leadership” had endorsed the new map, without naming anyone.
“This map sends a message to India, it sends a message to the unarmed youth of Kashmir who martyr themselves for the cause, that Pakistan stands with them,” Qureshi said. “This map represents our goal.”
The Press Trust of India, the largest news agency in India, quoted the Indian ministry of foreign affairs as saying the new map had no “legal validity nor international credibility.”
India’s ANI news agency tweeted, quoting the government of India: “We’ve seen a so-called ‘political map’ of Pakistan that has been released by PM Imran Khan. This is an exercise in political absurdity, laying untenable claims to territories in the Indian state of Gujarat and our union territories of Jammu Kashmir and of Ladakh: Govt of India.”
The Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir has been at the heart of more than 70 years of animosity since the partition of British-ruled India into Muslim Pakistan and majority Hindu India in 1947.
Tensions reached a new high since August 5 last year when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government took away Indian-administered Kashmir’s special privileges, provoking anger in the region and in neighboring Pakistan. It also took away the region’s status as a state by creating two federally controlled territories, splitting off the thinly populated, Buddhist-dominated region of Ladakh.
Jammu & Kashmir had been the only Muslim-majority state in mainly Hindu India. India and Pakistan have fought two of their three wars over the region.
For decades, India has battled insurgency in the portion of Kashmir it controls. It blames Pakistan for fueling the strife, but Pakistan denies this, saying it gives only moral support to non-violent separatists.