ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has expressed “serious concerns” to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and UN secretary general over India’s controversial ‘maps bill’ which aims to restrict geographical depictions of India and disputed Kashmir to those that are government-approved.
“Pakistan expressed serious concerns to the UN Secretary General and the President of the UNSC, through letters by its 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,” a statement issued by the Foreign Office stated.
Anyone distributing a map which the Indian government deems to be “wrong” could be liable for a billion-rupee ($15 million) fine and jail time under a new draft bill published last week.
“In violation of UNSC resolutions, the official map of India has been depicting the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir as part of India which is factually incorrect and legally untenable,” the statement said.
Through the passage of this Bill, the Indian government would penalise the individuals and organisations who depict Jammu and Kashmir as a disputed territory as per UNSC resolutions, it added.
Further, the letter called upon the UN to uphold the UNSC resolutions and urge India to stop such acts which are in violation of international law. “We have urged the international community and the United Nations to fulfill their commitment with the people of Jammu and Kashmir by holding an independent and impartial plebiscite under UN auspices,” the FO spokesperson said.
Maps are a highly sensitive issue in India, which has long-running border disputes with several of its neighbours, most famously over the divided Himalayan region of Kashmir.
“No person shall depict, disseminate, publish or distribute any wrong or false topographic information of India including international boundaries through Internet platforms or online services or in any electronic or physical form,” the draft Geospatial Information Regulation Bill says.
The bill, which is up for public consultation, was published on the home ministry’s website on Wednesday and lists penalties, including a prison term of up to seven years and a fine of INR1 billion rupees.
New Delhi already imposes tight restrictions on maps but if it becomes law, the bill would impose specific penalties for the first time, including for online use. The new bill also states that a licence will be needed to “acquire, disseminate, publish or distribute” maps.