EU Report Says Plebiscite Not In Kashmiris' Interest
Mohd. Sadiq

20 December 2006

In her report titled 'Kashmir, Present Situation and Future Prospects', British Member of European Parliament (EP) Baroness Emma Nicholson has observed that the continuing demand for a plebiscite on the final status of Jammu and Kashmir is not reflective of the current needs of local people. Nicholson observes in her report that the plebiscite demand is, in fact, damaging to Kashmiris' interests. The Foreign Affairs Committee of the EP is expected to adopt the report after a debate on amendment proposals on 30 January 2007.

Pakistan Failed To Fulfil Its Obligations
The key observations in the report drafted by Rapporteur Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne during her visit to Kashmir earlier this year are based on a comparison of the situation in Indian Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). The report says that both India and Pakistan are important European Union (EU) partners. Observing that neither of the two countries have called for the EU's mediation, the report observes that the EU and international community should, nevertheless, support the current bilateral talks for the aim of generating a more stable and prosperous future for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Acknowledging that both India and Pakistan are now members of the nuclear club, the report says that 'India is the world's largest democracy and has a functioning democracy at local level, whereas Pakistan still has to show that it is respecting democratic principles in a great many areas.' The 10-page long report with 44 observations also says that Pakistan has consistently failed to fulfil its obligations to introduce meaningful and representative democratic structures in PoK (called Azad Kashmir in Pakistan).

Echoing India's position, the Nicholson report observes that Pakistan needs to take more effective steps to curb cross-Line of Control infiltration of militants. Moreover, the report supports the Indian position that demilitarisation in J&K is not favourable unless there is genuine reduction in violence levels. Though the report appreciated Islamabad's public commitments to end infiltration, it deplores the frequent incidents of terrorism undertaken in Kashmir by Pakistan-based terrorists outfits. The Nicholson report implores Pakistan to 'revisit its concept of democratic accountability, minority and women's rights in AJK, which it terms as crucial to counter the menace of terrorism. Comparing the governance structures in both parts of divided Kashmir, the Nicholson report observes that AJK is governed through Islamabad-based Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and that Pakistani officials dominate the Kashmir Council besides which the Chief Secretary, the Inspector General of Police, the Accountant General and the Finance Secretary are all from Pakistan. But with regard to Indian Kashmir, the report notes that the state enjoys a unique status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, granting it greater autonomy than other states in the Union.

The Nicholson report drew sharp criticism from Pakistan and separatist outfits including the two factions of the Hurriyat Conference which termed the report as biased and unrealistic. Separatists say that Baroness Nicholson was a state guest during her visit to Kashmir earlier this year and members of the EU delegation led by her did not meet any of the separatists to ascertain their views. The separatists called upon the EU to reject the report submitted by Baronnes Nicholson. The Pakistan government also took up the report at an official level with its ambassador in Brussels, Saeed Khalid, writing a letter to Nicholson expressing reservations about her observations. However, in her reply, Baronnes Nicholson reportedly defended the draft report and said that she would welcome a constructive debate on the report. Reports indicate that major amendments are likely to be made in the draft report before it is adopted by the European Parliament. Observers say that while these amendments may seek to soften the observations made in the Nicholson report, there is growing acceptance of the fact that the ground situation in Indian Kashmir is today arguably much better than in PoK.

Go to the European Parliament website