EU Report On J&K Disfavours Plebiscite
6 March 2007
London: A European Union report on Jammu and Kashmir has disfavoured any plebiscite in the state, saying it would be 'meaningless' unless Pakistan withdraws all its troops from the parts under it, corrects the demographic changes and ensures return of territory under China.The report, to be discussed by the EU's Foreign Affairs Committee on March 21, notes that over last 58 years, there have been large scale population changes in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) with people from outside settling in unlike the the Indian side where such settlements are prohibited. An amendment recognising this situation is among 16 accepted from among 250 moved in the report prepared by prominent Member of European Parliament (MEP) Baronness Emma Nicholson. These would be discussed by Foreign Affairs Committee on March 21 before the report is presented to the plenary for voting towards the end of May. 'Any plebiscite would be meaningless without a change in policy from Islamabad, which maintains that all of Kashmir is an integral part of Pakistan's territory, and without Pakistani troop withdrawals and the return of Punjabi and Pathan settlers from Gilgit and Baltistan as well as Chinese withdrawal from Aksai Chin and the Shaksgam Valley,' the amendment said. 'The Constitution of AJK (Azad Jammu and Kashmir or Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) of 1974 would have to be altered if the people there are to be invited for plebiscite. The situation since 1947 has changed. The UN Resolution on J-K stipulated the condition that there should be complete withdrawal of troops from Pakistan from the occupied area and those who settled from outside Kashmir should also withdraw,' Nicholson told reporters. The amendment said that these population changes are a major cause of the non- implementation of long-standing UN declarations. It also noted the steps taken by India and Pakistan in the Shimla Agreement of 1972 and the 2004 Joint Statement building on the 1999 Lahore Declaration whereby the two nations determined to resolve the situation by peaceful, bilateral means and not to turn it into an international issue. Another compromise amendment drew attention to the fact that 'the Republic of India is the world's largest secular democracy and has evolved democratic structures at all levels, whereas the Islamic Republic of Pakistan still lacks full implementation of democracy in AJK (PoK) and has yet to start the process of democracy in Gilgit and Baltistan.' It noted that 'both countries are nuclear powers outside the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. While India's nuclear doctrine rests on the principle of no-first use, Pakistan's does not.' Describing the India-EU relations as 'exceptionally good,' Nicholson said the EU would not get involved in Kashmir unless both parties invited it. She said the Kashmiri people, particularly in the PoK were in a dreadful situation because of the havoc caused by the earthquake. Nicholson said the only solution to the Kashmir problem was to increase the trade and movement of people between the two countries and minimize the impact and importance of the border. Nicholson, who has already visited Jammu and Kashmir and PoK, said she would be visiting Ladakh next month at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. During that visit she would also travel to Gilgit in Pakistan.