February 2019 News

UK Notes India's Protest, Nixes London Meet With Pak FM On His Kashmir Visit

2 February 2019
Times of India
Naomi Canton

London: Within days of tensions escalating between New Delhi and Islamabad over Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's phone conversation with Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the British government heeded India's strong objections, a source told TOI, to withdraw its official meetings with Qureshi on his upcoming trip to London for a controversial conference and exhibition 'on Kashmir'. A UK foreign office spokesman confirmed: 'We understand Mr Qureshi is travelling to London to attend a number of private events. There are no plans for meetings with the UK government during this visit and he is not a guest of the government.' Qureshi will attend a conference 'on issues in Kashmir' in the House of Commons on Monday, which British MPs will also attend, and an exhibition on 'human rights violations in Kashmir' on Tuesday. Both events are going ahead, despite the Indian government's protests. A spokesman for the Pakistan high commission in London, which has organised the invite-only events, together with All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Pakistan, told TOI: 'The Pakistan foreign minister will be attending a conference on Monday on Kashmir and an exhibition on Kashmir at the InterContinental hotel Park Lane on Tuesday.' The high commission refused to divulge any more details about either event and confirmed no meetings were planned with the UK government. A member of staff working for Rehman Chishti MP, chair of the APPG on Pakistan said: 'I have been told to direct all queries about this event to the Pakistan high commission.' A source told TOI: 'There were some meetings between the foreign minister and the British government planned but they were cancelled because India protested.' The source continued: 'The conference on Monday is to highlight issues in Kashmir'. He said the Pakistan foreign minister was among the main speakers. Invites for the conference are understood to have been sent out by both the APPG on Pakistan and the APPG on Kashmir, made up of cross-party British MPs and peers. Pakistani-origin Nazir Ahmed, who stages protests against India in London, is vice-chair of the APPG on Pakistan. Last week Raveesh Kumar, MEA spokesman, said: 'We have conveyed our position to the UK very strongly that their territory and country should not be used for anti-India sentiments or anti-India rallies and conferences. We hope they will take this thing with the same seriousness with which we have put it across them and they will take action against such conferences....' The British government, however, is allowing both events to go ahead, which are taking place to coincide with the so-called 'Kashmir Solidarity Day', a public holiday in Pakistan. The UK Foreign Office spokesman said: 'UK's position is that it is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting political resolution to the situation in Kashmir, taking into account the Kashmiri people's wishes MPs are independent of government; it is for individual members to decide who they meet and for what purpose.' Islamabad's foreign ministry spokesman Dr Mohammad Faisal said that in the phone call that brought Islamabad and New Delhi to a standoff, 'the foreign minister informed Mirwaiz of events being organised by British MPs in London...', and that, 'Mirwaiz greatly appreciated the efforts but his passport had been confiscated by government of India.'