March 1999 News

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Summit Provokes Rush of Activity by Kashmiri Separatist Groups in UK

4th March 1999
The Hindustan Times

In the wake of the Lahore summit between the Indian and Pakistani Prime Ministers, a new group of British Members of Parliament (MPs) is working actively to promote the separatist cause in Jammu and Kashmir.

The summit has provoked a rush of activity by Kashmiri separatist groups which fear their cause might be lost in any new understanding that might develop between Indian and Pakistan.

Fifteen British MPs signed and early day motion (resolution) in the House of Commons that calls for Kashmiris to be considered a separate minority group in Britain, distinct from India and Pakistan.

Four MPs turned up at a meeting in the House of Commons to support the launch of the new Kashmir National Identity Campaign.

The meeting followed another which was called immediately after the Lahore summit. Several British MPs attended that meeting of the Muslim Conference (Q), the faction led by former Prime Minister of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) Sardar Abdul Qayyum.

The MP now most active in supporting Kashmiri separatists in India-born Marsha Singh who represents Bradford West, the constituency that earlier sent Max Madden to Parliament. It is a constituency with more Pakistanis than any other.

The second MP who has launched into active support of Kashmiri separatists is Helen Brinton who represents Peterborough, about 112 km north of London. Her constituency has a negligible Kashmiri population.

The new MPs have evidently taken up the rhetoric abandoned by the older guard.

Many of the comments of the new MPs arise from a Labour Party resolution in 1995 which called for a British role in reopening and resolving matters over the accession of Kashmir.

The new group has replaced the older critics of India who have gone relatively silent for varying reasons. Of the old battery of critics, Avebury has expressed greater understanding of the Indian position after his last visit to India and Pakistan. Max Madden is no more an MP, Clair Short has stopped speaking on Kashmir since she became a Minister, George Galloway has become quieter after getting embroiled in controversies and Gerald Kaufman has taken to more friendly languages.

In another early day motion, Kaufman congratulated the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan on their summit.

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