British MPs urge govt to play role in resolving Kashmir dispute

London, September 24 (KMS): A British Member of Parliament (MP) from the Labour Party has termed the situation on the ground in Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) as deeply troubling, urging the UK government to play its role in resolving the decades-old Kashmir dispute.

Stephen Kinnock taking part in a debate on a motion on “Human rights in Kashmir” in the House of Commons, said, “For 72 years this conflict of Jammu and Kashmir has been going on. It is the world’s longest unresolved conflict. It dates back to 1947 and it is defined by the long and tragic history of political and military conflicts.”

He said it is not just the historical responsibility of the UK to play its part but also the country has so many ties that bind it even in 2021. “There is an opportunity to work with our friends and partners in Pakistan and India and with the Kashmiri people to find a peaceful solution,” he said.

Stephen Kinnock said as many as 95,000 people have been killed in the last 30 years alone by some accounts whereas IIOJK is recognised as “the most heavily militarised territory in the world”.

On August 5, 2019, the UK parliamentarian said, the Indian government unilaterally revoked the special status of IIOJK under Article 370 and divided it into two union territories govern directly by New Delhi. “What followed was an Indian army imposed lockdown. The lockdown and internet ban have a far-reaching impact on every aspect of life for Kashmiri people. Education, health services and media freedom all were undermined.

“This unilateral action was counterproductive in terms of trying to achieve a peaceful and just long-term settlement of the issue.”

He said that the Labour Party would urge New Delhi to carefully assess the impact on the individual rights and freedom of Kashmiri citizens while taking such significant actions. “The Labour Party will always speak up for the rights of people of Kashmir,” he concluded.

Naz Shah, another British MP, said that after events of the last century, “by now we should all know what a fascist party looks like, speaks like and what it acts like”.

“We should also know what illegal occupation and ethnic cleansing look like. However, despite knowing that we failed in our duties to act, knowing that the BJP’s journey towards genocide, we are not doing what we should do,” she added.

Quoting the Genocide Watch, Naz said that all 10 stages of the genocidal process in Jammu and Kashmir are far advanced while Kashmir is under military rule.

MP Afzal Khan from the Labour Party said that the human rights situation in IIOJK has long been a cause for international concern. “The Kashmir conflict is the longest unresolved dispute on the agenda of the UN. The situation for Kashmiris has become dire during the pandemic. The people of Kashmir face an uncertain and bleak future,” he added.

The debate, which was scheduled to be held in March 2020 but had to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, was opened by Opposition Labour Party MP Debbie Abrahams who recounted her visit to Azad Jammu and Kashmir in February 2020.

“The Pakistani government allowed us unfettered access… we used our meetings to ask pointed questions related to human rights issues highlighted in United Nations reports,” said Debbie Abrahams.

“Kashmiris must be at the heart of a trilateral peace-building process,” she said, reiterating that Thursday’s debate was not “pro or anti” any country and only speaking in favour of human rights.

Meanwhile, the UK’s Minister for Asia in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), Amanda Milling, responded to the debate by saying that the British government’s stance on the Kashmir dispute remains unchanged. “The government takes the situation in Kashmir very seriously but it’s for India and Pakistan to find a lasting political solution, taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people. It’s not for the UK to prescribe a solution or to act as a mediator,” said Amanda Milling.