Controversy Over Banknote Maps Have Kashmir Links

SRINAGAR: Cartography is emerging the new tension to the diplomacy and invariably it is Kashmir at the focus of it, right now. Different countries and corporate fiddle with the political maps and it creeps to the newspaper front pages.

Imran Khan, Pakistan Prime Minister, driving visiting Saudi crown prince MBS from airport in February 2019.

In Delhi, a Joint Committee on data protection has questioned the micro-blogging giant Twitter for showing Ladakh as part of China. An executive of the company appeared before the Committee and was questioned. BJPs Meenakshi Lekhi heads the committee.

Though the company officials comprising Shagufta Kamran, senior manager, public policy, Ayushi Kapoor, legal counsel, Pallavi Walia, policy communications, and Manvinder Bali, corporate security insisted the company respects the sensitivity of India, the Committee, reports said found the explanations “inadequate”. Lekhi said the offence if tried, will lead seven years imprisonment.

While Delhi is dealing with Twitter, there is yet another “cartographic coup” across the seas. It involves the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, India’s major ally in the region that has separated Gilgit Baltistan from the Pakistan map.

The new Saudi 20 Riyal banknote has a world map that shows Gilgit Baltistan separate from Pakistan

On October 25, Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority released a new 20 Riyal banknote to commemorate its Presidency of organizing G-20 summit on November 21-22, 2020.

“The banknote, on the front side, carries the picture of King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud, along with a slogan of Saudi Presidency, while the backside features a world map showing the G20 countries in a different colour,” The Daily Times reported. “However, the world map does not show Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir as parts of Pakistan.”

“According to the stand of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir (PoK), are now independent nations, official said,” Jammu newspaper Daily Excelsior reported. “This move by the Islamic Kingdom is a hard slap on Pakistan’s face which had released country’s new political map on August 5, 2020, after abrogation of Article 370 and prompted New Delhi to call it `political absurdity.’”

The love story between Riyadh and Islamabad is facing a crippling crisis as Delhi has barged between the two. This led Saudi Arabia imposing costs on Pakistan by withdrawing the credit facilities on oil exports and early repayment of a US 43 billion loan.

The recent low has been Riyadh telling Islamabad to restrict its “Kashmir Black Day” (October 27) event to its embassy premises, according to Hindustan Times. The newspaper said Iran – the Saudi rival, also imposed the same restriction on Pakistan embassy in Tehran.

“Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Sunni and Shia shoulders of Islam, refused to allow Pakistan missions to hold public events to observe the 27 October anniversary of Jammu and Kashmir’s accession to India as a Black Day, a departure from previous years that signals Pakistan’s shifting equations in West Asia,” the newspaper reported. “People familiar with the matter said the Pakistan embassy in Iran had proposed an event in Tehran University to observe what it has called a Black Day. But Tehran surprised Islamabad when it communicated its refusal to allow the event.”

The newspaper added: “Islamabad’s plans to hold a public event within the Pakistani consulate in Riyadh were also blocked by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.” The newspaper said that Pakistan’s changing equations in the region are outcome of its getting cosy with Turkey.

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