The elections held in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir earlier this week were an attempt by Islamabad to “camouflage its illegal occupation” of the region, India said on Thursday.

Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi asserted that Pakistan has “no locus standi on these Indian territories” and called on it to vacate all Indian areas under its illegal occupation.

On Monday, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party won the elections to the 53-member Pakistan-occupied Kashmir Assembly. The country’s opposition parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, have accused Khan’s party of “rigging” the elections, PTI reported.

“India has lodged a strong protest with the Pakistani authorities on this cosmetic exercise, which has been protested and rejected by the local people,” Bagchi said. “Such an exercise can neither hide the illegal occupation by Pakistan nor the grave human rights violations, exploitation and denial of freedom to the people in these occupied territories.”

Legally, Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, which Pakistanis call Azad Jammu and Kashmir, is an autonomous self-governing territory. However, the Kashmir Council – a nominated 14-member body headed by the Prime Minister of Pakistan – effectively holds most of the powers in the region.

In November 2020, Pakistan held elections to the Gilgit-Baltistan territory, which is also a part of undivided Jammu and Kashmir. At that time as well, India had conveyed its “strong protest” against the elections.

The MEA spokesperson on Thursday also strongly objected to references made to Jammu and Kashmir in a recent joint press statement by Pakistan and China. Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh have been and will continue to remain integral and inalienable parts of India, Bagchi said.

Bagchi added that the “so-called CPEC [China Pakistan Economic Corridor] is in India’s territory, that has been illegally occupied by Pakistan, and...we resolutely oppose any attempts by other countries to change the status quo in areas illegally occupied by Pakistan”.

The China Pakistan Economic Corridor, which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, consists of a network of infrastructure and energy projects. It is an integral part of Beijing’s $900 billion Belt and Road Initiative.

On Taliban

The MEA also reacted to Taliban leaders visiting China on Wednesday and meeting the leadership there. India is closely monitoring the developments in Afghanistan, Bagchi said.

“I would like to reiterate that India and the world wishes to see an independent, sovereign, democratic, and stable Afghanistan which is at peace with itself and its neighbours,” the MEA spokesperson said. “Unilateral imposition of will by any party will not be democratic, cannot lead to stability and cannot provide legitimacy.”