By Zahid Rafiq
SRINAGAR, Jammu Kashmir (AA) – Pakistan said it is deeply concerned about India’s efforts to pass a law that would punish anyone who draws a map of the country in a way that portrays Jammu Kashmir as disputed territory.
“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,” Pakistan’s foreign office said in a statement on Tuesday.
According to the bill, anyone who portrays Jammu Kashmir or even Azad Kashmir as disputed territory or as part of neighboring Pakistan could face a prison term of up to seven years and a fine of up to a whopping 1 billion Indian rupees ($15 million).
India has since rejected Pakistan’s objection to the bill.
“We will take suggestions and views of citizens, experts and various stakeholders before finalizing it,” Kiren Rijiju, India’s home affairs minister, said. “But it is the duty of the government to see that India’s map is depicted properly.”
The provision is part of the draft of the new Geospatial Information Regulation Bill planned to be brought to parliament soon by the Indian government.
“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 provision in the draft bill said.
According to Indian media reports, once the new law is in place, any person or institution sharing geospatial imagery or data on India would need permission and a license from the government.
Even online platforms like Google may have to apply for a license to run Google Maps and Google Earth in India.
Last year, India banned al-Jazeera for five days for showing what the Indian government called a “wrong map,” which had shown Azad Kashmir as part of Pakistan.