India furious over Saudi G20 banknote showing Kashmir as an independent state
The controversy surrounding Kashmir's map is decades old, with the valley divided by a Line of Control (LoC) between Pakistan and India since 1972 when the two countries fought a war over it.
A new 20 riyal note issued by Saudi Arabia to commemorate the kingdom’s presidency of the G20 has sparked controversy as it depicts disputed Kashmir as a state independent from India or Pakistan.
The banknote, printed last week by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority, has a portrait of King Salman and the Saudi G20 summit logo on one side, and an artistically rendered world map on the other.
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The map triggered anger in India for showing the territory of Jammu & Kashmir as separate from India but was celebrated by Kashmiris and many others on social media for recognizing the wishes of many people who reside in the disputed territory.
Ghulam Nabi Mir, the head of The World Kashmir Awareness, a nonprofit organization that provides humanitarian relief to Jammu and Kashmir, said the map was welcomed by Kashmiris and people sympathizing with their struggle.
“It’s an expression of what Kashmiris would love. Kashmiris have not yet been given a chance to decide if they want to be independent or be with Pakistan. There are many opinions in Kashmir, but most people do not want to be with India,” Mir told The Middle East Eye.
“We are happy that Saudi Arabia made the decision to show solidarity with Kashmir, and we hope they will not retreat, as India is occupying and colonizing Kashmir using domicile laws.
“Saudi Arabia has taken the first step, and they need to leave it to Kashmiris to decide their independence. They should not worry about their financial dealings with India, but must not compromise their moral position of standing with Kashmiris.”
Still, the map triggered outrage in India, with officials and the public claiming it was misrepresentative and a distortion.
An Indian government spokesperson, Anurag Srivastava, said New Delhi raised “serious concerns” about the banknote at the Saudi embassy in India and its embassy in Riyadh.
“We’ve taken up this gross misrepresentation of India’s external territorial boundaries on an official and legal banknote of Saudi Arabia… We’ve asked the Saudi side to take urgent corrective steps in this regard,” he said.
The controversy surrounding Kashmir’s map is decades old, with the valley divided by a Line of Control (LoC) between Pakistan and India since 1972 when the two countries fought a war over it.
In 2015, India banned Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera for almost a week after it published a map of the country that excluded Kashmir.
New Delhi has also frequently censored The Economist magazine for showing Kashmir as a disputed region.
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