For the second time in three years, a debate has been scheduled in the House of Commons on the ‘political and humanitarian situation in Kashmir’ on Thursday, riling Indian sensitivities and cautioning Britain that ensuring strong relations between the two countries was a ‘shared responsibility’.
British MPs led by Conservative MP Steve Baker had seized on a report by Amnesty International on alleged human rights violations in Jammu and Kashmir to hold a debate in the House on 15 September 2011, when several MPs criticised India and Sri Lanka.
This year, David Ward, a Liberal Democrats MP from Bradford East – a constituency with a large population of people of Pakistan origin – has secured the three-hour debate scheduled to be held in the Westminster Hall of parliament. The debate will recorded like any other debate in the House.
The Indian high commssion was said to be “somewhat disturbed” at the debate, particularly its likely adverse impact on the Asian community when the debate is reported by the news media in Britain and India, even though the wider Indo-UK relations are unlikely to be affected.
It is understood that some British MPs have been briefed ahead of the debate on the Indian perspective on Jammu & Kashmir, which is currently grappling with severe floods, promoting major rescue operations by the Indian army and other forces.
It has been pointed out to the MPs that foreign diplomats and the International Red Cross have free access to Jammu & Kashmur and that human rights bodies in India take cognizance of and punitive action against any human rights violations by security forces.
The MPs have also been told of the “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."
In a significant intervention, Varinder Paul, India's deputy high commissioner, sounded a cautionary note on Indo-UK relations on Sunday before an audience comprising Business secretary Vince Cable, to whose party David Ward belongs.
Paul 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. We should not allow any such tendencies to succeed. And this is our shared responsibility”.
India regards debates in British parliament on Jammu & Kashmir as an interference in its internal affairs, while the position of Britain’s Foreign Office is that it has nothing to do with such debates, since it is entirely the business of Parliament, which is free to discuss anything.
Britain regards Kashmir as an ‘unresolved’ dispute but believes that it is for India and Pakistan to resolve it. Its past attempts to play the mediator have caused fury in New Delhi.