Debate On Kashmir In UK Parliament Causes Stir

10 September 2014
Times of India
Kounteya Sinha

London: Britain's House of Commons will hold a special debate on the state of human rights in Kashmir on Thursday - a move that has seriously irked India. Calling the 'ongoing Kashmir dispute a threat to regional and global peace', British MP David Ward informed the Backbench Business Committee that new Indian government has been 'quite aggressive in terms of its stance towards Kashmir' which was 'opening up a whole new area of uncertainty'. Ward had also informed Committee that he had 40 MPs backing him up through a signatory campaign who would like Westminster to hold a debate on the human rights violations in Kashmir. Ward, a Liberal Democrat MP represents Bradford East in the House of Commons. Bradford city has the biggest Pakistani-origin population in Britain. Britain's decision to agree for the debate has invited angry reactions from on Kashmir hasn't gone down well with Friends of India and South East Asian think tanks. They said, 'Why should Kashmir be discussed in the parliament when Britain has always been of the view that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan?'. Deputy high commissioner for India in the UK Dr Virander Paul recently said, 'From time to time, we find that there are certain tendencies in certain sections of the society, which are not in the interest of our strong relations. We need to watch out and be mindful of any such efforts'. The debate will not take place in the main chamber of the House of Commons, but in a committee room in Britain's Houses of Parliament. At the same time, its contents will be officially recorded. In a note, the Indian High Commission has told British MPs 'It is a widely recognised fact and clearly recorded internationally that infiltration of terrorists into Jammu & Kashmir is aided and abetted by Pakistan, including use of cover fire and other military actions on the border. It is necessary that no encouragement should be given to the proponents of terrorism and jihadi elements which are being sent into India to create mayhem'. Recently in an exclusive interview with TOI, Britain's deputy prime minister Nick Clegg said Britain does not want to be a mediator between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. He told TOI, 'Kashmir can only be resolved by the two neighbours - India and Pakistan through dialogue. UK does not intend to be a mediator between the two countries'. Clegg added, 'The British parliament is a sovereign institution and is free to debate on any issue it likes. II definitely don't curtain the right to debate. But as far as the government's position on Kashmir is, it remains the same. This is a long-running conflict, and we stand by to help; but ultimately it can be resolved only by the two countries in question'. Ward recently told the Committee that 'Kashmir has been a constant source of misery over many years to many people. In the region of 5,00,000 to 6,00,000 Indian Army troops are in the area on a permanent basis. It is an area of tension and some 5,00,000 people have died there in the past 60 or so years'. 'This is why I think it is an important subject: 3 million members of the Indian-Pakistani community; 1,00,000 Kashmiris in Bradford. The reason why I think it is important now to have a debate of this kind is, first of all, it is three years since we had a debate in the Chamber on this crucially important subject. It is considered by many to be the forgotten conflict. You are talking about two nuclear powers facing each other. We do believe it is worthy of a debate, because of its international dimensions as well'. Ward said the motion of the petition says, 'This House believes that the ongoing Kashmir dispute is a threat to regional and global peace; further that the dispute is causing insecurity, instability and human rights violations; and further that the State of Jammu and Kashmir should be given the right to self-determination'.