kashmir: UK reaffirms Kashmir is a bilateral issue after fiery House of Commons debate – Times of India


LONDON: A two-hour debate on human rights in Kashmir in the House of Commons in which allegations were hurled against India ended with a British government representative telling UK MPs that it is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting political solution to the situation in Kashmir, taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
“It is not for the UK to prescribe a solution or to act as a mediator,” said Amanda Milling, who was appointed minister for Asia in the UK PM’s recent reshuffle. “It would be for India and Pakistan to agree if they desired external mediation from any third parties. We regularly raise our concerns about human rights and about the situation in Kashmir at a senior level within the governments of Pakistan and India,” she said.
MPs from all political parties condemned India’s alleged human rights abuses in Kashmir, the closure of Amnesty International and the revocation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution at the debate on Thursday. Many said human rights were “not a bilateral issue” and were “a multilateral issue” and called for UN human rights officials to get access to both sides of the LoC and for Britain to take a bigger role in facilitating peace in the region, saying it had a duty given it had overseen Partition.
“We in this Parliament talk about girls’ rights in Afghanistan, but what about girls’ rights in Indian-occupied Kashmir,” said Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi, whilst Conservative MP Paul Bristow, who also referred to the region as “Indian-occupied Kashmir”, said: “Just as we care about injustice against the Rohingya and the Uyghur, we also care about injustice against Kashmiris.”
“This is not pro or anti any country; it is definitely pro-human rights,” said Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, who secured the backbench debate. She was deported from India on February 17, 2020 because she had an invalid visa. The following day she flew to Pakistan and met PM Imran Khan, a trip that was funded by the Pakistan government.
Abrahams called on the British government to “make an annual statement to the House of Commons on the government’s contribution to conflict resolution and peace-building in Kashmir”, whilst shadow minister for Asia Stephen Kinnock, presenting the official Labour line, proposed that the British government “send a delegation to Jammu and Kashmir to assess the human rights situation and report back to Parliament”.
Many of the MPs taking part had constituencies with large Mirpuri populations and some had clearly been lobbied by the Pakistan government. Conservative MP Steve Baker said he had received a letter from the Pakistan high commission alleging that India had used cluster bombs along the LoC on July 30, 2019, striking civilians and villages. He called for the British government to investigate it, saying if true it was a “crime against humanity”.
Conservative MP Robbie Moore, who represents Keighley, where many British Pakistani Kashmiris live, said: “Yesterday, I received a letter from the high commissioner of Pakistan in which His Excellency wished to bring me up to speed on the continuing violations of human rights…”
Labour MP Liam Byrne said there should be no trade deal with India or Pakistan unless human rights are observed, whilst Labour MP Tahir Ali said that the Indian high commissioner should “be barred from the parliamentary estate, pending an end to the military occupation of Kashmir” given that China’s ambassador to the UK had also been prevented from entering Parliament.
Conservative MP Bob Blackman was one of the few MPs that defended India. He said that the illegal occupation by Pakistan of part of the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir should cease. “When that is done, we can talk about the other United Nations resolutions.” He said Kashmir had been tainted by radical Islamist terrorists. “If the troops were withdrawn and the protections were not there, the plight of Jammu & Kashmir would be the same as Afghanistan, with Islamist forces coming in and eliminating democracy in the area.”

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