British Parliamentarians speaking up for Empowering Kashmiri Voices

Posted on May 9, 2014 at 2:20 PM

BritishMembers of Parliament MikeGapes MP member Foreign Affairs Select Committee, SirGerald Kaufman MP, CliveBetts MP Chairman Communities and Local Government Select Committee, Steve Baker MP, David Ward MP andJason McCartney MP called for empowering Kashmiri Voices in the India Pakistandialogue process to resolve long standing Kashmir conflict according to thewishes and aspirations of Kashmiri people. The highly influential and respectedmembers of parliament were speaking at a Parliamentary reception hosted by SimonDanczuk MP to help Kashmir Development Foundation (KDF) an indigenous Kashmiridevelopment organisation to showcase their work to empower the voiceof under-represented people and communities.


SimonDanczuk MP welcomed the members of parliament support for empowering Kashmirivoices. He emphasised the need for the recognition and inclusion of Kashmiricultural heritage and national identity in ethnic monitoring systems in the UK.

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TheExecutive Director of Kashmir Development Foundation Sardar Aftab Khanhighlighted the importance of Kashmiri narrative in the wider discourse onJammu and Kashmir conflict and explained how the Kashmiri Diaspora can play aneffective role in peacebuilding in Jammu and Kashmir. He said: “Kashmir societyis intrinsically an open society. We have a centuries old ethos ofmulti-ethnic, multi-religious co-existence, but this openness is threatened byprolonged conflict. We need to secure our open society from danger ofunresolved Kashmir issue. The people of Jammu and Kashmir are striving for apeaceful society – a society where people have right to life, liberty andsecurity. They are in a struggle to secure their right of freedom, a freedomfrom the five faces of oppression: violence, economic exploitation,marginalization, powerlessness and cultural imperialism.”


Mike GapesMP, member of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee said: “India and Pakistandidn’t involve Kashmiris in the dialogue process started some fifteen yearsago. Although both countries have made some progress, domestic politics withinIndia and Pakistan will influence the decisions made by governments. It’s a verydifferent context now, there is an election coming up – looks like Modi mightwin, and not sure what that will mean in terms of the impact on the IndiaPakistan dialogue over Kashmir. In Pakistan, there is a democratic government,but we know that the democratic government doesn’t control all of Pakistanipolitics. Afghanistan’s looming situation, Taliban insurgency in FATA, and appallingtreatment of minorities within Pakistan is complicating the situation massively.”He added that I have a lot of Kashmiri constituents, from both side of the Lineof Control (LoC), so I understand the complexity. “The relationship of diasporacommunities in the UK from that region, working together to build a dialogue isimportant, because it feeds back. It is an important part of process, if we’regoing to build trust.”


Sir GeraldKaufman MP said: “the Kashmir Issue is longest standing international issue inthe world – longer even than Palestine – taken to UN Security Council, byIndia. It’s a shame on the international community that this issue has not beenresolved. It’s not just about the dreadful humanitarian atrocities, this is asituation of world crisis – both India and Pakistan have nuclear weapons, andthey have fought several wars over Kashmir. The International community isunbelievably short sighted in not understanding that, apart from other aspects,that this is most critical issue in terms of international peace and security.It is utterly deplorable that the UK Government will not involve itself in anyway, and that it’s an issue for India and Pakistan to determine themselves”.

He furthersaid: “Economic development in J&K is essential and Kashmiri voices must beheard.”


Clive BettsMP Chairman Communities and Local Government Select Committee said: “The resolutionof the Kashmiri Conflict shouldn’t be left to India and Pakistan only, it should be up to the people ofJammu and Kashmir who are able to make a decision about their future. The rightto Self-determination is key, and I hope that the UK parliament andinternational community see that, and put that first on their agenda.”


SteveBaker MP and David Ward MP stressed the need for bringing professionalism in theKashmiris’ campaign for their rights and forging links with all communities.


JasonMcCartney MP said: “Time is coming for self-determination. We’re going to havea referendum in Scotland and on the EU within the UK, so I think the time iscoming for self-determination around the world. Often I hear of atrocities inKashmiri– it is important that we have clear, transparent reporting of what’shappening in Kashmir – we need to get this issue out there, on the UK and worldstage.”


RenownedKashmiri writer and analyst Ershad Mehmmod stressed the need to highlightthe crucial role of including Kashmiris in any dialogue relating to Kashmir inensuring a sustainable and just peace. He said: “This is a critical time forpolicymakers to devote their time, resources and intellectual energies to theKashmir conflict for multiple reasons. There are an increasing number ofreports from the ground in Kashmir of a likely resurgence in militant activitywith the active participation of educated youth in Kashmir. There are concernsthat governments have not capitalised on the period of relative calm (reducedmilitant activity and a “ceasefire” along the LoC) over the last 10 years toachieve significant progress on dialogue and peacebuilding, making a spike inmilitant activity and violence at the LoC more likely in the immediate future.

It iswidely acknowledged that people of Kashmir aren’t being consulted, and are notpart of a wider dialogue. Both India and Pakistan have been engaged, but nottalking to Kashmiris for over six decades. People living there know that theyshould be consulted – but there’s no mechanism, no official structure, noprocess that can take the local narrative into consideration at the highestlevel. There is an urgent need to establish structure whereby we can promoteideas to both governments. If they’re not talking to us, we should talk tothem!”


CouncillorAmna Mir said: “Within our community women don’t have much voice at all indecision making forums. Many women don’t even know what the issue is – don’tknow the impact of division of Kashmir and the non-recognition of our nationalidentity. It is high time for all to work towards women’s involvement atlevels.”


Haji Akram,Chairman, Kashmir Development Foundation applauded  the members of Parliament for talking note ofKashmiri Voices and welcomed the opportunity to work with them in building thecapacity of Kashmiri community to speak out for themselves.


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