A British MP bats for India on Gilgit-Baltistan but Indian-origin lawmakers cool to motion
Bob Blackman remains the sole signatory for the motion criticising Pakistan’s plan to declare Gilgit-Baltistan as its fifth province.Updated: Apr 14, 2017 19:38 IST
Lobbies supporting India and Pakistan often clash in Britain’s parliament, but a recent early day motion in the House of Commons, criticising Pakistan’s plan to declare Gilgit-Baltistan as its fifth province, faces the unlikely fate of none of the Indian-origin MPs supporting it so far.
The motion was tabled by Bob Blackman (Conservative), MP for Harrow East, on March 23, but until Friday, he remains the sole signatory to it. MPs usually demonstrate support to such motions by adding their signatures to it.
A committee headed by Pakistan’s advisor of foreign affairs Sartaj Aziz has reportedly proposed giving the status of a province to Gilgit-Baltistan, raising hackles in New Delhi, which called the move “completely unacceptable”.
There are 10 Indian-origin MPs in the current parliament, five each in the Conservative and Labour parties. There is some despair but not surprise in Indian quarters over the fate of Blackman’s motion, given recent experience of India-related debates in parliament.
A heated debate in parliament on January 19 on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir saw only two MPs speak in India’s favour: Blackman and senior Labour MP, Virendra Sharma. The motion asking the UK government to raise the issue at the United Nations was agreed.
An Indian-origin MP said Blackman’s motion was introduced before the recess and not many were aware of it amidst the large collection of such motions, but hoped that more will support it after the House resumes later this month.
Ministerial responsibilities prevent some MPs from signing motions. Blackman said others had not done so because their Indian constituents had not lobbied them. He and others mentioned the pro-active lobbying by Pakistan groups in the UK.
Blackman told Hindustan Times: “On the other hand, one notices that the pro-Pakistan lobby in the UK is extremely effective and they make sure their MPs turn up in their support via all possible parliamentary contributions”.
“The debate on Jammu and Kashmir held on January 19 was a classic example. It was just me and one other MP speaking in support of India. Hardly anyone speaking on the day spoke of the human rights violations by Pakistan and ignored the series of violations by them over the years”.
Blackman added that he had received messages from the Indian diaspora appreciating the motion, but regretted that the community had not managed to “effectively lobby their own MPs on this matter”.
Another Indian-origin MP said New Delhi needed to be pro-active and do much more to present its versions on various subjects in the United Kingdom.
The ten Indian-origin MPs are: Keith Vaz, Valerie Vaz, Seema Malhotra, Virendra Sharma, Lisa Nandy (Labour) and Priti Patel, Shailesh Vara, Alok Sharma, Rishi Sunak and Suella Fernandes (Conservative). Patel and Sharma are ministers in the Theresa May government.
There were nearly 1,500 early day motions tabled in 2015-2016. They are used to put on record the views of individual MPs or to draw attention to specific events or campaigns. By attracting the signatures of other MPs, they can be used to demonstrate the level of parliamentary support for a particular cause or point of view.
Annexation of Gilgit-Baltistan by Pakistan as its fifth frontier
“That this House condemns the arbitrary announcement by Pakistan declaring Gilgit-Baltistan as its Fifth Frontier, implying its attempt to annex the already disputed area; notes that Gilgit-Baltistan is a legal and constitutional part of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India, which is illegally occupied by Pakistan since 1947, and where people are denied their fundamental rights including the right of freedom of expression; further notes the attempts to change the demography of the region in violation of State Subject Ordinance and forcibly and illegally to build the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which further aggravates and interferes with the disputed territory”.
First Published: Apr 14, 2017 18:11 IST