November 2002 News

We made ''serious mistakes'' over Kashmir: Jack Straw

15 November 2002
The Hindu

LONDON: The British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, has said that Britain made ''serious mistakes'' over Kashmir and called the festering dispute between India and Pakistan a consequence of his country''s colonial past. In an unprecedented acknowledgement of the damaging effects of Britain''s colonial legacy on the Indian subcontinent, Mr. Straw described Kashmir as a ''bad story for us.'' His remarks in an interview to New Statesman came in the course of his savage indictment of what the pro-Labour journal termed as ''British historical errors.'' The situation in India and Pakistan topped his list of the problems around the world, which, he said, were a hangover of Britain''s imperial foreign policy. ''India, Pakistan we made some quite serious mistakes. We were complacent with what happened in Kashmir, the boundaries were not published until two days after independence. Bad story for us, the consequences are still there,'' he said. At the height of India-Pakistan tensions earlier this year, Mr. Straw described Kashmir as ''unfinished business'' which was seen in Indian circles as a rather unhelpful comment and at odds with New Delhi''s categorical position that Kashmir is an integral part of India. Although his latest remarks were made in an altogether different context, observers said they were likely to revive the controversy over Britain''s stand on Kashmir. Mr. Straw''s predecessor, Robin Cook, provoked an angry row in New Delhi when on a visit to India he made certain comments which were regarded as amounting to outside interference. Mr. Straw also cited Afghanistan as an embarrassing example of British policies saying his country ''played less than a glorious role over a century-and-a- half.'' And ditto West Asia where the ''odd lines for Iraq''s borders were drawn by Brits.'' On the Palestinian issue too, he said, early British involvement was ''not an entirely honourable one.'' While the Opposition accused Mr. Straw of ''undermining'' the British foreign policy, Downing Street was quoted as saying that his remarks were a ''sensible statement of history.''.


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