SRINAGAR: The United Kingdom has called on India to lift all restrictions in Kashmir and has demanded to allow a team from its High Commission in Delhi to visit the Valley for a first-hand assessment of the situation, UK Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland has said while replying to a debate on the “political situation in Kashmir” in the Westminster Hall by UK MPs, reported The Tribune.
The debate took place a day after the UK MPs discussed “Persecution of Muslims, Christians and Minority Groups in India”, which elicited a strong reaction from the Indian High Commission in London. Last week, UK MPs had lobbied for repeal of India’s farm laws.
The minister said Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been in touch with his counterparts from India and Pakistan to keep their communications open and manage regional tensions. “We urge India and Pakistan to exercise restraint, maintain ceasefire on the LoC and to improve communications. We welcome India’s commitment to social and economic development of Kashmir and seek further details of their plans,” newspaper The Tribune quoted Buckland as having said. “We continue to talk frankly to India about our human rights concerns and call for all remaining restrictions to be lifted as soon as possible.”
— India in the UK (@HCI_London) January 13, 2021
“I am sure we have all caught ourselves at some stage moaning about the lockdown, but for the people of Kashmir it is not something new and, unlike here, in Kashmir, lockdown is not about safety; it is about control… The lockdown of 2019 shut off entire communities and their communications to the outside world,” India Today quoted Labour MP Sarah Owen as having said while participating in the debate. “Around 7 million people have been silenced and cut off. There were families worried about loved ones. Students studying in Luton were unable to get fees paid by parents in Kashmir, as banking ceased. There are curfews to control people’s lives, not a virus—a lockdown enforced by half a million soldiers.”
In the debate, the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs, Nigel Adams, represented the UK government. Addressing the forum, he said that the UK government remains engaged with India although reiterating their position that it is not “appropriate” for the UK Government to prescribe a solution or act as a mediator with regards to the unresolved question of Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
“The situation in Kashmir has been of particular concern to many here today, including this Government, especially since the revocation of article 370 of the Indian constitution in 2019 and the introduction of a number of restrictions on assembly and communications by the Indian Government, which has been raised by many Members. We understand that some of these restrictions may have been relaxed, with broadband internet partially restored, along with some access to social media. This is welcome news, but more should be done,” India Today quoted minister Adams as saying. “It is not appropriate for the UK Government to prescribe a solution or act as a mediator in this regard, but it would be wrong to not acknowledge that there are serious human rights concerns in both India-administered and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.”
The discussion that focussed only on Jammu and Kashmir was broadened with MPs like Barry Gardiner highlighting the atrocities in Pakistan-Administered-Kashmir (PaK).
Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission in London also reacted to ‘Kashmir’ being debated by UK lawmakers.
Calling the basis of entire debate on inaccurate information, the statement said: “It was also noted that references to the Indian Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, despite the volumes of authentic information available in the public domain – based on up to date and visible facts on the ground, ignored current ground reality and, instead chose to reflect false assertions – of the kind promoted by a third country such as unsubstantiated allegations of ‘genocide’, ‘rampant violence’ and ‘torture’.”
It added: “They neither acknowledge the feelings of hope and optimism among the people of Jammu and Kashmir after more than seventy years of external interference, nor the atrocities being committed daily in the part of Kashmir that is illegally occupied by this third country which is recognized as a global epicenter of terrorism, a safe haven for more than 120 UN proscribed terror entities and individuals (confessed to by its Prime Minister) and a perpetrator of state-sponsored cross-border for over 70 years in Jammu and Kashmir – and the rest of India.”
There were others who also highlighted the concerns regarding the situation in Kashmir.
Conservative MP James Daly said, “The Government has quite rightly expressed in the last few days their views on China’s treatment of the Muslim population in that country. We must take a similar stance in respect of Kashmir and put the obvious human rights abuses at the top of our agenda. Thousands of our fellow citizens are from a Kashmiri background and have family members there who are affected on a daily basis by the acts that take place.”
Labour MP emphasised that while the debate is not against India, every government needs to be held accountable.
“We are not against India. It is a huge country with an incredible history and limitless potential, but that does not mean that we should not hold the Indian Government to account for their abusive behaviour, especially in Kashmir. We also reject any argument in relation to Kashmir, Punjab, or the Uyghurs in China that these are internal matters and of no concern to those outside,” he said, according to report published by India Today.
MP Jim Shannon observed that if India is discussed the situation in PaK cannot be ignored.
“I state my interest as chair of the all-party parliamentary group for the Pakistani minorities and chair of the all-party parliamentary group for international freedom of religion or belief. My work with both groups has led me to be very concerned about the human rights situations in both India and Pakistan,” he said.
“There is credible information about the enforced disappearances of people from Pakistan-administered Kashmir. All those things are backed up by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. They have the facts and the evidence, and they say it,” India Today quoted Shannon as having said.
The Indian High Commission asserted that Kashmir is an internal issue of India, yet reiterated its invitation to engage the parliamentarians to dispel their misconceptions.
“It is not the policy of India to take undue interest in internal discussions within a foreign parliament. High Commission of India is engaging with all concerned including the UK Government and H’ble Parliamentarians to avoid misperceptions and misinformation by making authentic information about India available to all,” said the statement.
Pakistan origin MP Naz Shah called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to stop selling arms to India.
“As a proud daughter of Kashmir, I simply ask the Minister whether the Prime Minister, who has now cancelled his visit to India, will follow on and cancel the shipment of arms to India? We do not need international leaders and Governments protesting with words; we have activists on the streets for that,” she said.
In response to the interventions, Nigel Adams said, “We have repeatedly raised our concerns about detentions and restrictions with the Indian Government. The Foreign Secretary has raised Kashmir with his counterparts, including during his visit to New Delhi last month, when he discussed the situation with his counterpart. He has urged, again, India and Pakistan to resolve their differences through dialogue.“
There were ten MPs who spoke on the issue with Philip Davies in the chair and Nigel Adams representing the UK government, reported India Today.