Kashmir debate in UK parliament irks India
16 September, 2011
LONDON: The British Government should act as a "critical friend" to Pakistan and India as it puts pressure on the two countries to resolve their dispute over Kashmir, a Labour MP said on Thursday.
Shabana Mahmood (Birmingham, Ladywood) said the conflict had turned in to one of the "most dangerous" in the world, which needed the Government's urgent attention.She said the suppression of an uprising in Indian-held Kashmir had led to "grave human rights violations," while there had also been evidence of "disturbing and unacceptable abuse" in the region.
Many political activists had been tortured while soldiers were seemingly immune from prosecution, Ms Mahmood told MPs.Speaking during a backbench business debate on human rights abuses on the Indian sub-continent, she said: "A resolution is needed both desperately and urgently.
"The world, and especially the people of Kashmir, cannot afford for India and Pakistan to be engaged in a perpetual dispute over the region. The human cost is too great. "Both countries spend too much of their budgets on defence, money which should be channelled to eradicate poverty, promote health and education and indeed human rights.
"Both India and Pakistan have acquired nuclear weapons and so there is a fear that the hostility between the two countries, which springs from a mix of religion, history and territory, might change quickly into armed conflict, is very real and never too far away.
"Meanwhile, the people of Kashmir continue to suffer and so a resolution of the dispute in Kashmir both deserves and demands our attention. Talks must be pursued with vigour on all sides.
"We should be a critical friend to both India and Pakistan and a strong advocate for the rights of Kashmiris." Tory MP Steve Baker (Wycombe), who tabled the motion, said the Government must support demilitarisation in the region.
He said he had been told by British Kashmiris who were his constituents that there were cases of mass-murder, rape and arbitrary detention. The debate in the UK parliament irked India after Steve Baker, a Conservative MP who along with four other MPs secured the debate, said prior to the debate that this will be the first "general debate" on human rights in Kashmir since Partition.
Indian government said it had taken "due note" of the debate. "Our views in the matter are known to the UK. Suffice it to say at this juncture that India is a vibrant democracy which fully respects rule of law and human rights. Civil liberties and freedoms are enshrined in the Constitution of India as fundamental rights and are exercised by each and every citizen of this country of 1.2 billion people," Official Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Vishnu Prakash said.