Diplomatic Ripple Over 'Azad Kashmir' President
27 April 2005
The Hindustan Times
London: It has raised many questions and diplomatic eyebrows. A meeting in Brussels between the Director for Asia of the European Commission's External Relations Directorate Fokion Fotiadis and a delegation led by Anwar Khan, President of the so-called Azad Kashmir has caused a diplomatic ripple in Brussels. This has also raised questions about the role of Kashmir Centres in Brussels, London and Washington. The Brussels and Washington Centres reportedly played active part in the interaction between the EC and the delegation. 'We are surprised to hear that the delegation from the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir was received in the European Commission,' Amar Sinha, Minister Political at the Embassy of India in Brussels said. 'This is not in consonance with the current development in our bilateral relations with Pakistan. We are ascertaining further details,' added Sinha.The Commission spokesperson for external relations, Emma Udwin, confirmed to the media that the meeting had taken place. According to her Khan briefed Fotiadis on recent developments in Kashmir and on the ongoing India-Pakistan dialogue. 'The Commission took note of this' but Udiwn did not elaborate further. It is for the first time such a high-level reception was accorded to a delegation from the PoK. It is said that the groundwork was done by three MEPs, all from British Conservative Party. When prior to the arrival of the delegation, the Indian mission had voiced concern, an EP administrator reportedly said everyone should have the opportunity to present its viewpoint. Khan also inaugurated on Tuesday afternoon a 'Kashmir EU Week' in the European Parliament (EP) which included a photo exhibition. Sources told HT that most photos were reportedly taken by a Belgium photographer way back in 1994. In several of them an Indian security man is seen in the background. Another source said that the presence of Indian troops and the alleged human rights violations was hinted through the photos. It is reported that the Kashmir week and the Exhibition was organised jointly by Kashmir Centre (BKC) in Brussels and the All Party Group for Kashmir (APGK) in the EP, whose chair is British MEP James Elles of the Conservative Party. In fact it is said that Elles and two other British MEPs, Elizabeth Lynn and Philip Mathews helped in the initiative, the first of its kind ever. Significantly several Kashmir Centres are coming up in western capitals, including one in London, and it is alleged that most are acting almost like missions for PoK. The centre in Brussels is on a very prominent location and is said to employ a large number of staff. The letterheads have EU stars printed on them. In London too, it is said that the Centre staff are highly paid. Significantly, even some leaders of Kashmir lobbies are confirming such information. Mr Abbas Butt, President of the JKLF (UK and Europe) told HT that the Centres did seem to have large funds. The motive behind the meetings was evident from what its backers said. In his inaugural speech, while Elles noted that this was the first such cultural event on Kashmir hosted by the EP, Matthews, also from the British Conservative Party and co-chair of the APGK said 'all of us in the EP are determined that the voices of the people of Jammu and Kashmir can be heard loud and clearly here in the EP. And we will of course be working with you to making it sure that in the future those voices could be heard loudly and clearly in the land of your fathers.' At a press conference, Khan while making some conciliatory comments could not help raising the old bogey of human rights violations. He said some 'very encouraging progress' has been made in the Indo-Pak peace negotiations. There have been confidence building measures (CBM) between Pakistan and India,' he said but lamented that the CBMs have not been extended to the Kashmiri people. He welcomed the recent launch of the bus service between the two parts of Kashmir but called for an end to what he said were 'killings, tortures, and human rights violations by Indian troops in Kashmir.' Khan thanked the EP and APGK for their Kashmir initiatives saying, 'We want the European Union to move in line with the EP.' Dr. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Executive Director Kashmir American Council, had also been in Brussels. He told the press conference that the recent cricket diplomacy following the visit of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to India was 'good and healthy sign.' Fai too had his dig. He pointed out that the EP delegation, which visited Kashmir last year, came out with a resolution in which it said, 'Kashmir is the most beautiful prison in the world.' Barrister Majid Tramboo, Executive Director of the BKC, called for the formation of a EU trio group on Kashmir under the upcoming British EU Presidency like the one the EU has with Iran. He suggested that UK, Belgium and Sweden should be part of this EU group. Elles, speaking at the same press conference, said the EP has sent delegations to both sides of Kashmir to prepare a factual and unbiased report and he urged for 'further progress on core issues.' The British MEP said one of the ideas that the BKC is developing with the APGK is a global discourse to bring together high-level personalities from both sides of Kashmir. 'We intend to do this later this year,' said Elles, whose constituency has a large number of people from Pakistan. Both Elles and Tramboo are considered to be the driving force in projecting the Kashmir issue in the EP. They organized a conference on Kashmir in Brussels last year in May; also the first of its kind to be hosted by the EP. Elles is also the president of the Kashmir European Forum of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire which was formed last March.