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Saudi G20 banknote angers India, Pakistan over Kashmir region status

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The map on Saudi Arabia’s newly issued 20 riyal banknote shows disputed Kashmir region as an entirely separate country independent from either India or Pakistan. (Photo via Twitter)

A new banknote printed by the central bank of Saudi Arabia has sparked controversy and been greeted with outrage in India and Pakistan as it depicts the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir as an entirely separate country independent from either of the two South Asian arch-rivals. 

The new 20 riyal note was issued last week by the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority to commemorate the kingdom’s presidency of the G20. 

It has a portrait of King Salman and the logo of the Saudi G20 summit on one side, and a world map on the other.

The map, however, shows Kashmir as a separate entity between India and Pakistan. It also appears to depict Gilgit Baltistan and the Azad Kashmir areas out of Pakistani control. 

India’s government spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said New Delhi had raised “serious concerns” about the banknote both at the Saudi embassy in India and through India’s embassy in Riyadh.

“We have 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 noted. 

“I would reiterate that the union territories of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh are integral parts of India,” Srivastava added.    

Moreover, exclusion of disputed Kashmir region from the map of Pakistan is seen by many in Islamabad as a major snub to the country, which considers Saudi Arabia as a key ally.

Kashmir has been split between India and Pakistan since their partition in 1947. The countries have fought three wars over the territory. 

India has stationed more than half a million soldiers in Kashmir to quell a pro-independence uprising that first erupted in 1989.

New Delhi also recently scrapped the semi-autonomy of its part of Kashmir, sparking a new wave of tensions over the region.

India and Pakistan have also frequently exchanged heavy fire across the militarized de facto border in the disputed Kashmir Valley.

India accuses Pakistan of arming and training militants and allowing them across the restive frontier in an attempt to launch attacks. Pakistan denies the allegation.

Thousands of people have been killed in the unrest in Kashmir over the past two decades.

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