Last Thursday when the Indian Meteorological Department (IMD) included regions of Gilgit-Baltistan and Muzaffarabad as part of its Jammu and Kashmir meteorological sub-division weather coverage, it gave rise to speculation that India was subtly reclaiming these territories under Pakistani occupation since its invasion into India under the callous rule of Jawaharlal Nehru in a few months after independence in 1947.
But perhaps the media noticed it later. The IMD said it had been mentioning the region in its national weather bulletin since the time Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh were made two separate union territories last year after the virtual abrogation of Article 370.
Where the media was right, the IMD had not been explicitly mentioning the territories in the regional forecast for northwest India until last week.
IMD’s N-W meteorological division comprises nine sub-divisions: Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Delhi-Chandigarh-Haryana, Punjab, eastern Uttar Pradesh, western Uttar Pradesh, eastern Rajasthan and western Rajasthan. M Mohapatra, Director General of Meteorology, India Meteorological Department (IMD), New Delhi, explained: “We will share the weather forecast for whatever region that comes under the Indian territory. Earlier Ladakh was part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, but now the situation is different as it is a separate union territory, so when we mention Ladakh, we decided to mention Gilgit-Baltistan and Muzzafarabad as well.”
The IMD plans also to set up a meteorological station in Ladakh soon. Mohapatra said it had the responsibility as an international agency too, given that IMD was a specialised Regional Meteorological Centre for the south Asia region. “We provide cyclone forecast to all the member countries. 2016 onwards, we have also been providing severe weather forecast bulletin to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries which includes Pakistan as well,” he said.
“We have been issuing alerts for severe weather events as an international practice. It is just that we have now mentioned it explicitly in our regional forecast,” Mohapatra said.
The change in the name appears to convey a significant political message, as it promptly follows the Pakistan Supreme Court’s ‘permission’ to Islamabad to hold elections in Gilgit-Baltistan. Last month, Pakistan’s top court had allowed the Imran Khan government’s application to set up a caretaker administration and conduct a provincial assembly election.
India had lodged a “strong protest” against the decision, saying Pakistani institutions had “no locus standi on territories illegally or forcibly occupied by it”.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said New Delhi completely had rejected such actions and the “continued attempts to bring material changes in Pakistan occupied areas of the Indian territory of Jammu & Kashmir”. Pakistan’s foreign ministry issued a statement on the same day, rejecting India’s charges.