London: The government of the United Kingdom must stop supporting India’s bid for a permanent UN seat until New Delhi agrees to end human rights violations and settles the dispute in Kashmir, speakers said here in the House of Commons on Tuesday.
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland which, like the House of Lords (the upper house), meets in the Palace of Westminster.
“India is looking for a permanent seat in the UN. Every one of us should keep reminding the British government that until India implements the UN resolutions on Kashmir, it must not support India,” Qurban Hussain or Lord Hussain of the House of Lords told a gathering during a seminar on Kashmir organised by Third World Solidarity for All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs).
APPGs are informal cross-party groups that have no official status within Parliament. They are run by and for members of the Commons and Lords, though many involve individuals and organisations from outside Parliament in their administration and activities.
“And it will be dangerous if Pakistan tries to settle the [Kashmir] dispute without Kashmiris or outside the ambit of the UN resolutions,” he warned, describing the support Pakistan has given to Kashmiris since decades and the “long history” of Kashmiris fighting foreign occupations.
The uprising against the Hindu Maharaja, he said, was so popular that when Pakistan came into being, Kashmiris wanted to become part of Pakistan. “Locals of Poonch and Gilgit liberated Azad Kashmir. Kashmiris in the Valley would have been liberated too if India hadn’t gone to the UN seeking ceasefire where she made a commitment that Kashmiris will decide their fate and promised the whole world a plebiscite in Kashmir.”
In his speech Nazir Ahmed (or Lord Ahmed), member of the British House of Lords, said there is an obligation on the international community to settle the Kashmir dispute but conceded that “Organizations like OIC and Arab league haven’t actively supported our cause.”
“Sadly, nothing is delivered. At the UN, Kashmir used to be discussed but that’s stopped now. The relations between India and the UK are based on business, that why UK and US don’t want to debate Kashmir,” he said.
“It’s good we talk about Wales, Scotland, south Sudan but nobody talks about Kashmir because India is too big and strong,” he said, sarcastically.
Syria-Kashmir double game
Veteran Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman, who is considered to be one of the robust pro-Kashmir British politicians, lambasted the UK government, saying it was “culpable” for what has been meted out to Kashmiris. “If Palestine is an infuriating issue, the failure of the international community on Kashmir is a scandal,” he said amid loud applause from the audience.
“Kashmir is the oldest dispute on the UN agenda. Next year, it will become a 70-year old confrontational issue in the world. The failure of the international community is not only culpable but stupid,” he said, adding, “More people have died in Kashmir (since 1947) than in the Syrian conflict.”
Comparing the UK’s stance on Kashmir and Syria conflicts, Sir Kaufman said that they (UK government) say Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan “but this government is culpable…when it comes to Syria, they don’t say it’s a matter between the people of Syria and Assad.”
He was referring to the UK’s role in Syria conflict where British fighter planes have been striking suspected Islamic State targets after MPs approved a motion last year authorising the use of military force against the group.
Too dangerous to neglect
Calling the 1987 rigged polls a watershed movement, author and historian Victoria Schofield said those days, the entire western powers supported Mujahedeen (in Afghanistan). “This was definitely an inspiration for the [Kashmiri] youth who were frustrated with the political process. But after 2001, all freedom movements were lumped together as acts of terrorism. Suddenly there was a new idea – the idea of a freedom fighter was no longer acceptable,” she said.
She said the “way forward” has to be dialogue. “Far too many have died. There are many martyrs in martyr’s grounds. There are many mothers who have been waiting for their disappeared sons,” she said, adding, “Looking at 2016, Kashmir has become too dangerous to neglect. What happens to India and Pakistan affects all of us. Around 55,000 Americans were killed in the Vietnam war but this [killings in Kashmir] is double that figure.”
In her speech, British MP Naz Shah committed to raise Kashmir dispute in the parliament saying, “We must see it as a humanitarian crisis. This issue is about our basic right. We have to stand up for Kashmir.”
Full support assurances
Stating that local polls are no substitute to a UN monitored plebiscite in Kashmir, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK Syed Ibn-e-Abbas said, “We are not here to discuss a territorial dispute we are here to lament the fundamental human rights violation of 15 million people who have been asking for the right to self determination. The rigged elections and subsequent polls are no substitute to the right to self-determination.”
Asking Kashmiris not to get disheartened, he said, “Things are changing, I am sure the time is not far when you will be the masters of your fate and destiny.”
“I assure you on behalf of the government of Pakistan that we stand with your struggle for the right to self-determination,” Ibn-e-Abbas said. Asked whether Pakistan supports the right of self-determination [in which Pakistan and India are the only options] or Independence of Kashmir, he said that whatever Kashmiris decide [in the vote], Pakistan will support it.