India Withdraws Patronage To EU Visits In J&K
21 August 2004
The Times of India
New Delhi: Furious with a 'biased' and interventionist report by a European parliamentary delegation, whose leader called Jammu and Kashmir 'the world's most beautiful prison,' India has withdrawn official patronage to such visits. New Delhi will not however stop such visits to Jammu and Kashmir or any other place. 'If they want to go they are free to do so but there will be no official patronage,' a senior official said. India had already stopped extending such patronage to the annual visit by the European Union (EU) ambassadors based in Delhi since last year after they started 'lecturing' the government on improving the human rights situation in the strategic border state. The government has rejected the report by the parliamentary delegation, headed by John Cushnahan of Ireland, saying its understanding of the situation in the Jammu and Kashmir was 'not accurate.' The delegation visited Jammu and Kashmir in June after a tour of the areas administered by Pakistan. 'Though they said they had visited Pakistan, their report did not reflect it. It was one- sided, without balance, inaccurate and insensitive,' the official said. External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh protested to EU High Representative Javier Solana and External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten after the report was released on July 23. EU's Ambassador to India Francisco Da Gamara Gomes was also summoned to the External Affairs Ministry and issued a demarche, conveying India's displeasure over the parliamentary delegation's report. India's Ambassador to Brussels R M Abhyankar has taken up the matter with 'Friends of India Group' in the European Parliament, which agreed that the report is 'not balanced,' the official said. 'One of the fundamental flaw in the report is that it ignores the democratic elections that took place in Jammu and Kashmir and how the demographic balance has been totally disrupted in PoK (Pakistan- occupied Kashmir),' he added. The report, released on July 23, suggested, 'The EU can offer its own unique experience as an example of building peace and forging partnerships that will stand the test of time because they are rooted in established structures for cooperation.' 'We believe that there are three parties which have a legitimate interest in finding a solution to the Kashmir problem, the Indian government, the Pakistan government and the Kashmiri people and their representatives, and therefore that all three should be fully involved,' it said. The Indian official said the delegation's report amounted to 'putting obstacles' in the ongoing peace initiative between India and Pakistan. 'On the one side the EU talks about deepening and strengthening relations with India, on the other, delegations like this come out with reports that are extremely negative,' he said, and added, the report is contrary to the EU's known stand that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. The report said the delegation 'understood' the Kashmiris' fear that a solution could be imposed upon them and recommended that there be 'tripartite' talks that include all parts of Kashmir.' While making a passing reference to the need to repudiate the use of all terrorism and violence, it 'recognised that the reported human rights abuses by Indian security forces continues to feed this cycle of violence.' Branding Jammu and Kashmir as 'Indian Occupied Kashmir,' it said, 'There is a huge military presence (in the state), with approximately one soldier to every 10 civilians.' While it welcomed the composite dialogue process initiated by India and Pakistan, it expressed the fear that 'this new dialogue would be no different' from the earlier ones. It also called upon the new Indian government, 'in the new climate, to reconsider its position on UNMOGIP (United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan), and to enable it to properly carry out its UN mandate by once again allowing and facilitating equal access for UNMOGIP to the Indian-administered side of the Ceasefire Line.' New Delhi has ceased to recognise the role of the UNMOGIP, set up to monitor the 1949 ceasefire, following the 1972 Simla agreement with Pakistan under which the two countries agreed to resolve all issues bilaterally. The delegation also strongly recommended that the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs appoint a standing rapporteur on Kashmir to be the focal point of contact of the European parliament and the people of Kashmir.