By Prasun Sonwalkar ,Vinod Janardhanan
The Boris Johnson government on Wednesday reiterated the UK’s long-standing position that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is for India and Pakistan to resolve, that London has no role, but said the current situation in the valley is of “great concern.”
Responding to an hour-long debate in the Westminster Hall of parliament on the ‘Political situation in Kashmir’, minister for Asia Nigel Adams called on the Indian government to lift remaining restrictions on assembly and communications in the valley.
Speakers in the debate included MPs from Conservative, Labour and the Democratic Unionist Party, with most of them highlighting reported incidents of alleged human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir as well as in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir.
The Indian high commission refuted allegations in a statement issued after the debate, adding that since the administrative reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, “it is well on the path of good governance and accelerated development”.
Adams said: “Undoubtedly, the situation in Kashmir elicits very strong feelings and is of great concern to this government. I want to stress that the government’s policy remains stable, it is unchanged, we continue to believe that this is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting political resolution to the situation that takes into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people”.
“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. This has been confirmed by the UN high commissioner for human rights in his report”.
He added: “The situation in India-administered Kashmir has been a particular concern to many here today including as well this government, particularly since the revocation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution in 2019”.
The UK government, he said, welcomed the recent release of former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, and noted that several restrictions had been relaxed in recent days and weeks.
Adams said: “We repeatedly raise our concerns about detentions and restrictions with the Indian government. The foreign secretary (Dominic Raab) raised Kashmir with his counterpart, including during his visit to New Delhi last month”.
“The situation in Kashmir remains an important issue for the government. We continue to talk frankly to the governments of India and Pakistan about our human rights concerns and for all remaining restrictions on India-administered Kashmir to be lifted as soon as possible”.
India was the focus of debates in the Westminster Hall for the second day on Wednesday. On Tuesday, MPs highlighted alleged persecution of Muslims, Christians and religious minorities in the country, with Adams assuring MPs that such issues are often raised with New Delhi.
Noting the debates, the Indian high commission extended an invitation to British MPs to discuss all India-related issues so that they have authentic and factual information, including issues of concern to them or their constituents.
It said: “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”.
“The measures taken since 2019 have brought an unprecedented sense of safety and security that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have long yearned for as they are now able to secure their lives , livelihoods and futures – safe from externally-induced violence and terror”. ( HT )