British MPs on Thursday held a debate on Kashmir in the UK Parliament, warning against “escalation” of violence in the region and calling on India and Pakistan to open channels of dialogue.
The debate went on despite India’s strong protest against any such action by British Parliament.
India on Thursday reacted strongly to reports that British Parliament may debate on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, saying there is no room for a third party role in the matter.
“Our position on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is very clear that all issues between India and Pakistan are to be resolved bilaterally and peacefully in accordance with Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration. There is no room for third party,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup said.
The motion in House of Commons urges the UK government to encourage India and Pakistan to commence peace negotiations to establish a long-term solution to the dispute.
Alok Sharma, UK’s Foreign Office minister in charge of Asia, stated Britain’s long-standing position on the issue.
“India and Pakistan are both long-standing and important friends of the UK and we have significant links to both countries through Indian and Pakistani diaspora communities.
“The long-standing position of the British government is that it can neither prescribe a solution to the situation in Kashmir nor act as a mediator. It is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting resolution, taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people,” he said.
“The UK will continue to encourage both India and Pakistan to ensure that channels of dialogue remain open,” he said.
Sharma also confirmed that British Prime Minister Theresa May had discussed the subject of Kashmir with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during her visit to India last November.
The debate was organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Kashmir and was conducted by the Commons’ Backbench Business Committee following an application from Conservative Party MP David Nuttall.
It was led by Nutall along with MPs Nusrat Ghani, Robert Flello and Fiona Mactaggart.
The motion for Thursday’s debate read: “That this House notes the escalation in violence and breaches of international human rights on the Indian side of the Line of Control in Kashmir; calls on the Government to raise the matter at the UN; and further calls on the Government to encourage Pakistan and India to commence peace negotiations to establish a long-term solution on the future governance of Kashmir based on the right of the Kashmiri people to determine their own future in accordance with the provisions of UNSC resolutions.”
Nuttall concluded the debate by calling on Sharma to “reflect on the very many positive suggestions for future action” before calling for a vote, which the deputy speaker of the House passed in favour of “the ayes have it”.
“It is not Britain’s role to intervene in the internal politics of any sovereign nation. But we stand ready to help facilitate and alleviate the suffering of the innocent people of Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir,” said Conservative party MP Bob Blackman, who has long campaigned for the rights of Kashmiri Pandits forced to flee the region.
“Today marks the terrible day back in 1990 when Kashmiri Hindus were forced from their homes. I have been speaking on this issue for 27 years. The whole of Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and both India and Pakistan must abide by the UN resolution,” said Blackman.
The Backbench Committee meets weekly to consider requests for debates from any backbench MP on any subject.
The debate follows a day of mourning observed by the Kashmiri Pandits Cultural Society UK in a committee room of the House of Commons last evening. The group seeks “justice” for the nearly 700,000 Kashmiri Pandits who were forced to flee their homes in the valley in 1989 and 1990.