Says India and Pakistan themselves find a lasting political resolution according to wishes of Kashmiri people, avoids to respond on ‘Khalistan referendum’ , Lord Ahmed, others lords raise questions related to Indo-Pak situation
Nation special report
LONDON: Reiterating its old stance on Kashmir, the British Government has once again declared that it is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting political resolution, taking into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people. Representing the government at the House of Lords here on Monday, Baroness Stedman-Scott said that Britain has no plans to make representation to the Indian Government regarding the declaration India made in 1979 on the right of self-determination when ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
It is not for the UK to prescribe a solution or to act as a mediator on these territories. She expressed these views while answering a question fielded by Lord Nazir Ahmed. He asked the Government whether they intend to encourage the government of India to withdraw its formal reservations against the right of self determination so that conflicts in Indian-controlled Kashmir, Punjab and other territories in the north east of the Indian subcontinent can move towards a peaceful resolution in a democratic manner, underpinned by international law.
Lord Ahmed further asked that given the British experience in Northern Ireland, how can the Government help to bring a peaceful end to the conflicts in these regions and bring to justice the perpetrators of human rights abuses in Kashmir, including those who gang raped and murdered eight year-old Asifa Bano—there are many thousands of others like her—and the perpetrators of the genocide of Sikhs in 1984? Would Her Majesty’s Government support a free, fair and impartial plebiscite, in accordance with UN resolutions of 1948 and 1949, and a referendum for Khalistan?
Baroness Stedman-Scott clarified government’s policy on these issues and said; “We acknowledge the strength of feeling in Sikh communities regarding the events of 1984.
The question of an investigation is a matter for the Government of India and India’s judicial authorities. As I said, we believe it is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting political resolution and we encourage both sides to maintain positive dialogue and good relations, but the pace of progress must be for them to determine. Referring the sad incident of rape, Baroness Stedman-Scott said that as he (Lord Ahmed) has mentioned, these cases are nothing short of horrific. I, and, I am sure, this House, extend our condolences to the families of the victims.
Prime Minister Modi has been clear that justice will be done. At this occasion Lord Indarjit Singh of Wimbledon (CB) said that at India’s independence, there was a transfer of power Act which said that India should be divided in the manner of the United States, with a lot of devolution.
Unfortunately, the central Government have ever since tried to seize ever more power. India is a vast country of many religions, cultures and races; it is not working. He asked would it not be helpful if the British Government urged India again to look at some element of devolution? Another aspect is the abuse of human rights in different parts of the country.
The Commonwealth conference is an excellent opportunity to look at human rights throughout the Commonwealth and to have a common standard. Does the Minister agree? Baroness Stedman-Scott responded that on the first part of the noble Lord’s question, in relation to our country trying to bring about some progress—and at the risk of repeating myself and frustrating noble Lords—we believe that the momentum for this must come from the Indian and Pakistani communities.
On human rights, India has a strong democratic framework which guarantees human rights, but we acknowledge that it faces numerous challenges relating to its size and development when it comes to enforcing fundamental rights enshrined in its constitution and wider law.
Lib Dem leader Lord Navneet Dholakia said that this is the most unhelpful suggestion ever to come from the noble Lord Nazir Ahmed. How is it likely to help Pakistan? If withdrawal of the formal reservation against the right of self determination by the regions of Balochistan, Punjab and Sindh in Pakistan is taken to its logical conclusion, it will make the country almost ungovernable.
Does the Minister agree that, on the fringe of CHOGM, both India and Pakistan have the opportunity to move towards a peaceful dialogue without interference from other countries and from the terrorist elements that operate to destabilise this process? Baroness Stedman-Scott commented that he (Lord Dholakia) has made a very good point. CHOGM presents all countries attending with the opportunity to have dialogue. We hope that will happen.
Labour leader Lord Collins of Highbury said that he knows that the principles of human rights will be a feature of this week’s CHOGM meeting. One way of guaranteeing human rights is to ensure freedom of expression and, certainly, freedom of religious belief.
What are the Government doing to ensure that we raise with the Indian and Pakistani Governments the need to adhere to those fundamental human rights if progress is to be made? Response from Baroness Stedman Scott was that the British high commission in New Delhi discusses human rights issues with institutions such as the Indian National Commission for Minorities and state Governments and will continue to do so.
India has a strong democratic framework which guarantees human rights and it faces challenges. I have no doubt that people will do all they can to ensure that the subject is not forgotten and is worked on to achieve the best possible outcome for the people it affects. Meanwhile, talking to ‘The Nation’ at the end of Q&A answer session at the House of Lords on Monday evening, Lord Nazir Ahmed said that he reminded the Government about the plight of Kashmir oppressed people and raised this human issue at the House at the eve of Commonwealth Conference so that all participating countries and their heads can understand the seriousness of this imbroglio and UK’s stand. “It is the basic duty of British Government to resolve this issue according to UN approved resolutions as the issue was left behind by British rulers and it is a unfinished agenda of partition which should be resolved amicably and to the best satisfaction of Kashmiri people”, Lord Ahmed emphasised.