India activated its diplomatic channels with the United Kingdom to ensure that Pakistan’s conference in London on the issue of Kashmir saw no official endorsement by Britain.
The conference is an annual affair organised by Pakistan to mark Kashmir Solidarity Day on February 5. This year’s London event was led by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
Sources told India Today TV that after New Delhi took up the issue with London, British officials told Indian diplomats that while they could not stop anybody from holding the conference, they would ensure no official participation and would treat Quereshi’s trips as a “private visit”.
The British High Commission spokesperson in New Delhi said, “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.”
“It is uncommon for a foreign minister to visit a country and not have a bilateral. India took up the matter strongly. UK treated it as a private event”, said a source.
Foreign Minister Qureshi had no official meetings in London.
India, through a demarche, took up the matter with Britain to consider the sensitivities involved in the meeting organised at the House of Commons of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir (APPG-K) which included Conservative and Labour Party MPs, followed by an exhibition in London to highlight the Jammu and Kashmir dispute.
Interestingly, while there were many who spoke at the conference, the final resolution was signed only by those who have been actively part of the APPGK.
The Mission Statement was endorsed by the following Members of British Houses of Parliament: Rehman Chishti MP, Lord Qurban Hussain, Imran Hussain MP, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Afzal Khan MP, Khalid Mehmood MP, Naz Shah MP, Baroness Shas Sheehan, Yasmin Qureshi MP, Lord Nazir Ahmed, and Mohammed Yasin MP.
The resolution took note of the (OHCHR) United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner’s Report of June 14, 2018 on the “grave human rights situation in Jammu and Kashmir”; the report was outrightly rejected by India.
The resolution noted that “non-resolution of Kashmir dispute has resulted in the sufferings of Kashmiri people, threat to the regional security and has adverse bearing on the socio-economic situation of Kashmiri people and others.”
India Today TV has learnt that many strong Kashmiri voices who do not agree with Pakistan were asked to leave the venue and Indian journalists were not allowed to witness the proceedings. What was an open house turned out to be a closed door event.
A source called the event a “damp squib” given that the entire conference was addressed to people who already have been part of Pakistan’s Kashmir agenda. “They were preaching to the choir”, said an official.
While the intention was to catch eyeballs, the London event had no resonance or outreach. Some leading members of APPG-K themselves gave the event a miss. Many of British parliamentarian who spoke are known either to have an “anti-India” view or are of Pakistani origin, said sources.
India has also questioned the timing of the event. There has been an increase in the Kashmir rhetoric from Pakistan since Imran Khan’s government came to power. While Imran Khan speaks of bettering ties with India, these events betray the real and “duplicitous” intentions of Pakistan, said an official.
Indian diplomacy managed to confine the event to pro-Pakistani forces in UK, while London assured India that they will not indulge Pakistan officially on a visit that was focussed on the issue of Kashmir given that UK wanted to stay out of an issue that is “bilateral” in nature and should be resolved bilaterally.