Kashmir settlement to help ease Afghan issue: British MPs

6 February 2009
The Dawn
M. Ziauddin

London: As Pakistan was commemorating Kashmir Solidarity Day on Thursday, inside the House of Commons parliamentarians from across the political divide debated the issues confronting Pakistan, Afghanistan and India with particular reference to the Kashmir dispute. Prominent among the speakers were Sir Gerald Kaufman, Mohammad Sarwar, Denis MacShane, Adam Holloway and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Defence Quentin Davies. They said tensions between India and Pakistan should be eased to facilitate resolution of the Kashmir dispute which they believed would lead to stabilising Afghanistan. Those who attended the debate included Foreign Secretary David Miliband and Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague. Sir Gerald said “We must do all we can to make it a top priority to solve the world’s oldest unresolved dispute of Jammu and Kashmir,” adding that Britain needed to do “much more” to put it high on the international agenda. He dismissed the Indian criticism of Mr Miliband’s remarks about Kashmir as unacceptable and warned that not paying serious attention to Kashmir resolution would be a prime strategic error. He viewed that a Kashmir settlement was imperative owing to “all the strategic reasons for which Britain is in Afghanistan”. He said that resolution of the Kashmir dispute would also eliminate the risk of “unnecessary military confrontation” between the two nuclear-armed countries, apart from reducing what he called the waste of resources on military spending by them. Mr Sarwar said British government should help Pakistan and India in resolving the conflict, underscoring that the settlement was also an essential part of the roadmap to a stabilised Afghanistan. He expressed the hope that Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Foreign Secretary Miliband and US President Barack Obama would work with the governments of the region to build a stable and peaceful South Asia. Denis MacShane pointed to the atrocities being committed by Indian troops in occupied Kashmir as well as India’s militaristic and jingoistic postures towards Pakistan, and asked his government to persuade India to de-escalate tension. He said it was time the British politicians stopped shying away from discussing Kashmir. Adam Holloway of the Conservative Party said that Britain should help reduce tension between India and Pakistan as this would let Pakistan focus on counter-insurgency engagement in its tribal areas. Later, some of these parliamentarians also spoke at the Pakistan High Commission where a function on the Kashmir Solidarity Day had been organised. They urged India to resume urgently composite dialogue with Pakistan so that the Kashmir dispute could be resolved amicably and the relations between the two neighbours were normalised. Kashmiri leaders based in the UK also made speeches on the occasion. It is learnt that Sir Kaufman in a letter written recently to the president of Azad Jammu and Kashmir has reaffirmed his support for the Kashmir cause. Martin Salter represented the All-Party Parliamentary Group and read out a message from the Chair of the Group, Margaret Moran, MP. In her message, Ms Morgan said that she had consistently supported the view that “the only sustainable solution to the crisis is self-determination for the Kashmiri people”.