UK Debate On Kashmir A Damp Squib15 September 2011
Times of India
London: A move in British parliament to embarrass India over rights violations in Kashmir virtually fell through with less than 30 of the 640 House of Commons members attending a debate on it. The house's business committee also disallowed a demand for a vote on the motion. Even Conservative Party MP Steve Baker, who initiated the debate, was hesitant in being too critical of India. British foreign office minister Alistair Burt rejected demands for interference in India's internal affairs and even the expression in the house put on record was made non-binding on the government. 'It is not for the UK government either to prescribe or mediate in a solution to the situation in Kashmir. It is the long-standing policy of the British government that this is a matter for the Indian and the Pakistani governments, taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people,' Burt said before the debate. More than one MP pointed out that the British Foreign & Office's latest human rights report said there were human rights violations 'on both sides' of the Line of Control. Baker said the House of Commons should not indulge in 'cheap condemnation of India'. He advocated a need for being 'even-handed'. 'We should not be too quick to criticize (the Public Safety Act, a preventive detention law in Jammu & Kashmir that triggered the debate),' Baker said. He cited the 'control order' that exists in Britain and has been widely applied in Northern Ireland not dissimilar to the PSA. Accusations of human rights violations, the need to resolve the dispute by 'democratic self-determination' and the recent discovery of mass graves in Jammu & Kashmir countered such favourable remarks. MP Shabana Mahmood of the PoK origin said a 'resolution was needed of the dangerous dispute' and called upon Britain and the international community to intervene. MP after MP ostensibly standing up for 'British Kashmiris' admitted that a large number of their constituents were Kashmiris. Pakistan high commission in London has reportedly, for decades, used this community to press British lawmakers into raising the Kashmir issue to Islamabad's advantage.