Kashmir issue needs international focus, says British MP

Distinguished Labour Party British Member Parliament (MP) Andrew Gwynne while emphasizing the need for re-educating people across the world including UK citizens on the Kashmir dispute has maintained that the dispute needs an international focus.

The participants of an international high echelon webinar held in Islamabad have made it clear the future of Kashmir cannot be determined by India unilaterally. The international lawmakers from EU and UK have affirmed the right of the Kashmiri people as principal stakeholders of the dispute.

In the backdrop of UNGA’s 75th summit session beginning next week, lawmakers, thought leaders, diplomats and journalists from the EU, UK, Pakistan, India, and IIOJK and Azad Kashmir agreed that the international community must know how Kashmir has become extremely restive since August 5th last year, and this comes with implications for conflict escalation in the region.

The Jinnah Institute’s webinar titled ‘The Future of Kashmir: A Test for Global Multilateralism and Regional Peace’ was chaired by Senator Sherry Rehman, President of the Institute said on the occasion that Kashmir is the oldest issue on the agenda of the United Nations, and must not be forgotten, or treated as an inconvenient regional issue that can be airbrushed away by the international community.

The fact that India refuses to talk about it with Pakistan, and to allow the Kashmiri people to decide their own future is in itself a grave repudiation of fundamental rights, and puts at risk not just the Kashmiri people who have been subject to a cascade of draconian laws in IIOJK that strip them of any justice or rights, but also puts the future of South Asia in jeopardy.

The participants included former Pakistan Ambassador to the US and EU Syed Tariq Fatemi, UK Member of Parliament (MP) Andrew Gwynne, Senior journalist from IIOJK Iftikhar Gilani, Member of European Parliament (MEP) Michael Gahler, Indian columnist and former BJP stalwart and intellectual Sudheendra Kulkarni, former MEP Julie Ward and IIOJK-based professor Dr. Siddiq Wahid expressed serious concern about the situation in IIOJK.

Azad Kashmir President Sardar Masood Khan in his keynote statement observed that the future of Kashmiri people was bleak if the international community does not intervene, urging the UK and EU parliaments to focus on the IIOJK situation before it was too late.

British MP Andrew Gwynne reminded that Britain was responsible insofar how it left Kashmir unresolved at the time of partition and added that his country had a positive role to play as a member of the UNSC. “The world cannot afford two nuclear states to enter into a conflict,” MP Gwynne said.

MP James Daly from the Conservative Party highlighted the significance of recognising oppressed Kashmiris’ inalienable right of self-determination. He recounted his visit to AJK in February 2020 along with other lawmakers, where his delegation was given free access to interact with citizens at all levels, in order to ascertain the situation on ground.

Veteran Kashmiri journalist Iftikhar Gilani saw that Kashmiri history, culture and language is being erased by the BJP’s Hindutva onslaught against the Muslim majority territory. He stated that the economy and local industry has suffered immensely because of the prolonged lockdown and connectivity breakdowns, leading to socio-economic hardship on top of grave human rights violations. Ambassador Tariq Fatemi highlighted that India had reneged on UNSC resolutions and bilateral commitments with Pakistan in abrogating the Article 370. The political and military leadership across Pakistan had offered to resolve the Kashmir challenge, but India had “unleashed terror and genocide” in the restive region.

Former BJP politician Sudheendra Kulkarni believed that the acrimonious relationship between Pakistan and India was a remnant of the partition and its aftermath. The abrogation of Article 370 was unconstitutional and unjust and had transformed the Kashmir issue to one now involving three states; Pakistan, China and India. “The abrogation is a wrong, and one that has to be rectified. Interdependence in the region would help find a solution,” he stated.

German MP Michael Gahler stated that India and Pakistan’s acrimonious past cannot be changed, but to proceed ahead and formulate ways of resolving the challenge, there is need for neutral observers to collect information and report to the international community. Transparency should be built into the process to enable a degree of confidence among neutral observers.

Others including former MP Julie Ward and Professor Siddiq Wahid of the Islamic University, Kashmir, also spoke on the occasion.

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