MEPs lacked ‘expertise’ on Kashmir

India should allow U.N. observers and diplomatic missions to visit Kashmir, says Finland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Pekka Haavisto. In an interview to The Hindu Mr. Haavisto rejected last week’s MEP visit to Kashmir for not being representational enough, and also spoke about the difficulties in restarting India-EU talks. Q: Finland was one of the few countries External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar visited after the decision on Article 370, and you are visiting Delhi now. What can you share on the conversations you have had on Kashmir? A: Both our meetings included very honest and in-depth discussions of the Kashmir situation. In Helsinki we had raised the question, and had been given an explanation on the government’s efforts to calm the region and fight against terrorism etc. At that time, we had expressed our concerns about human rights and freedom of speech and the detention of politicians. We had the same agenda during this visit, and want to ask about the possibility to have international observers, including U.N. observers to travel up to Kashmir. At least if the diplomatic community based in Delhi could visit the region, it would create more confidence about what is going on. Transparency of the situation is better as, otherwise, all kinds of rumours and reports are floating around. Our other message is that there must be a final settlement of the situation, as we believe the tensions between India and Pakistan are unsustainable, and they must find a way to sit down and finding a solution, but this has to be an initiative of the region. Q: You said international observers should be sent, but last week, the government did actually send a group of 23 European Parliament members (MEPs)…. A: [The MEP delegation sent] was not, in my understanding, a multi-party and politically balanced delegation. I don’t want to criticise if anyone is travelling and reporting about the situation in Kashmir, but it is good if people who have expertise about the situation in this region or on human rights, freedom of the media issues etc. are involved. As a former U.N. person, I would rely on United Nations observers, and in this kind of situation they may be the most unbiased. Q: How did the [Indian] government respond to this? A: We have been mentioning this during our meetings, which were held in a good atmosphere, and I think Mr. Jaishankar has taken note of our view, but nothing else yet has happened. Q: During a visit here last week, German Chancellor Merkel said the situation for people in Kashmir is unsustainable. Would you agree? A: I understand that some of the news and rumours we are hearing are of concern and the situation is not normal. Shops are not open, people can’t go to work, or others are not able to harvest [crops]. News like this normally means that economic development is worsening too, and people’s livelihoods are becoming difficult, so this is also a concern. Q: How do you think the India-Pakistan conflict should be resolved, and while India has rejected all third party mediation, are you offering to play a role? You personally have experience in ending conflict, including this year in the peace agreement in Sudan’s Darfur. A: In these kind of long-lasting conflicts like Kashmir, where in the past we even had Finnish peacekeepers (UNMOGIP observer mission) at one time but we don’t have them now, it is quite obvious that the willingness to talk has to come from the parties themselves, and then if they decide can choose a third party that they trust. But usually, it is not the third party that offers. That is my experience. Q: What sort of role does Finland see for itself here? A: We have a very long-term connection with India, and we want to have discussions not just on the situation here, but on the situation in Afghanistan. India has an Indo-Pacific interest, it is involved with Arctic Circle, there are similar issues of climate change, so we have a lot of interests and we believe in multilateral cooperation and the rule of order. .Read more at India No 1 Defence News Website .