February 2017 News

Kashmir An Internal Affair: EU Team

22 February 2017
The Hindu
Suhasini Haidar

Srinagar: Human rights 'violations' in Jammu and Kashmir must be resolved internally in India, says a visiting delegation of Members of European Parliament, accepting that the conflict in the State is an internal Indian matter. 'The reports of breaches of human rights in Jammu and Kashmir have to be settled through Indian institutions. The conflict is a very sensitive issue, we know sensitive it is. Delegations of MEPs visited both sides of Kashmir in 2003-04. This has to be settled through domestic Indian institutions,' said David McAllister, Chair of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the EU Parliament, clearly ruling out the need to 'internationalise' the Kashmir issue. Mr. McAllister was responding to a question from The Hindu about a previous visit this week of MEPs, who had warned that human rights agencies were trying to 'rake up' the Kashmir issue in the European Parliament. Visa denial: However, while giving India its full support on the human rights issue, the delegation, however, will take up two other thorny issues: India's denial of a visa to a member of their delegation, and recent Home Ministry action against NGOs in India. 'As far as the case of our colleague from the U.K. is concerned - Amjad Bashir - he hasn't been granted a visa on time I will of course, also address this issue [with the officials we meet],' Mr. McAllister said, ahead of meetings with National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Minister of State for External Affairs V.K. Singh and others on Thursday. The External Affairs Ministry refused to comment on the diplomatic incident caused by the visa denial. Mr. Bashir, a British MEP of Pakistani origin, had reportedly taken a strident position on violence in Jammu and Kashmir, calling it a 'stain' on India's 'record achievements' in other spheres, when the EU Foreign Affairs Committee met the Indian Ambassador to the EU in Brussels, Manjeev Puri, on February 9. In a heated exchange Mr. Puri told Mr. Bashir and another member of Pakistani origin, 'My suggestion to you would be to tell the country of your birth to stop fomenting terror, stop being an epicentre of global terrorism and stop trying to export it across,' agencies reported. EU officials confirmed that Mr. Bashir was due to travel with them, but that the Indian High Commission in London had not issued him the papers. 'If I have been banned because of sincerely-held beliefs that is regrettable and counter-productive. Surely the way to solve the long-running problem of Jammu and Kashmir is to have open dialogue and allow a diversity of views - not to ban dissenters from entering the country,' Mr. Bashir was quoted telling Pakistan's The News. Curbs on funding: On the issue of NGOs operating in India, the EU delegation said it was concerned about strictures on funding and the functioning of rights organisations, that had also been brought to the EU parliament's notice. 'Human rights are universal, and we don't understand why the government wants to block the activities of organisations dealing with human rights. The only restriction can be blocking terror organisations. But when it's about women's rights, children's rights, it's very important to explain this approach,' said Cristian Dan Preda, MEP, said adding that European governments had funded some of those organisations, and they would discuss this with Minister of Women and Child Welfare Maneka Gandhi. Mr. Preda is the head of a committee preparing a comprehensive report on political relations between India and the EU, building off their strategic partnership launched in 2004, including the issue of human rights, which the members said were an 'integral part' of the EU's foreign relations. Officials said they had also discussed 'security cooperation and counter-terrorism issues' in New Delhi.