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India-Pakistan tensions: U.K. calls for diplomatic solutions

Foreign Office Minister Mark Field noted that India was entering a “pre-election” period and that remained a “factor of concern.”

Foreign Office Minister Mark Field noted that India was entering a “pre-election” period and that remained a “factor of concern.”

The British government has expressed its deep concern about “rising tensions” between India and Pakistan, and called for urgent restraint from both sides and “diplomatic solutions,” but has steered clear from coming down on one side or the other or to play an intermediary role on the wider Kashmir issue, as it acknowledged the need to deal with “underlying” issues,” particularly with regards to that region.

Foreign Office Minister Mark Field noted that India was entering a “pre-election” period and that remained a “factor of concern.”

“That is one of the reasons we want to see a de-escalation at the earliest possible opportunity,” Mr. Field said during a question and answer session in the House of Commons on Wednesday.

He also said that he would express concerns about the safety of Kashmiri people based across India who had faced violence and threats since the attack.

“I am happy to express those direct concerns when I speak with the High Commissioner,” Mr. Field said. The Minister urged for dialogue and for the two countries to find “diplomatic solutions.”

The opposition Labour Party’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said that while India had been absolutely right to take action against the terrorist group and to urge Pakistan to do the same, long-standing human rights concerns also had to be dealt with.

No active role

Mr. Field rejected calls from some MPs in both main political parties for Britain to take a more active role in the situation on Kashmir, insisting Britain’s position on Kashmir and bilateral relations remained the same.

However, asked by one Labour MP about human rights concerns and “state violence” in India, and what she described as the Indian government’s “own divisive right-wing nationalist agenda,” he insisted that the situation in India wasn’t “relevant to the present situation.”

“However, we all know we are in a pre-election period within India and that is one of the factors that is obviously a concern. and that is one of the reasons we want to see a de-escalation of this at the earliest possible opportunity to avoid any of the issues referred to,” he told the MPs.

“This is an extremely serious situation… We will press for the importance of restraint,” he told the MPs, reiterating Britain’s long-standing and important relationship with both countries. He said that any attempt to intervene or come down on one side or another particularly on Kashmir, this would result in Britain losing “credibility.” “The idea that the U.K. should robustly be seen to be on one side of this battle rather than another is self-defeating. It is in the interest of all to have a calm approach.”

With a large Indian and Pakistan diaspora in the U.K., MPs from both sides of the political spectrum raised questions about the unfolding situation, with many raising concerns about the human rights situation in Kashmir. “Any allegations of human rights abuses are concerning and need to be investigated thoroughly,” said Mr. Field, during the discussion.

Some MPs also raised concerns about the location of the Jaish-e-Mohammed camps in Pakistan. “These groups are based in Pakistan occupied Kashmir and Pakistan… Clearly the answer is that Pakistan should take action to dismantle the terrorist camps and ensure the terrorists are brought to justice,” said Conservative MP Bob Blackman, calling on Mr. Field to tell Pakistan to “own up to its responsibilities.”

“Making some categorical statements that are not entirely supportable,” at this time did not help the situation, insisted Mr. Field. He welcomed Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s “rhetoric in favour of peace.”

Ever since controversial comments by former Labour Foreign Secretary Robin Cook in 2002, suggesting Britain play a role in Kashmir, Britain has adamantly steered clear of taking a stance against one country or the other or for suggesting involvement in resolving the Kashmir dispute, insisting it was a bilateral issue for the two sides, taking into consideration the wishes of the Kashmiri people.


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Printable version | Aug 6, 2022 2:35:00 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/india-pakistan-tensions-uk-calls-for-diplomatic-solutions/article26391146.ece