Niloofar Qureshi

Why Organise Events that Undermine the Kashmir Issue?

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As another Kashmir Solidarity Day draws to an end with the joint resistance leadership (JRL) of the Hurriyat and United Jihad Council (UJC) chief and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) supremo Syed Salahuddin thanking Islamabad for observing it, one is tempted to reflect on what has this nearly two decade old annual event achieved in terms of taking the ‘K’ issue forward.  Year after year we have been hearing the same thing of how Islamabad’s diplomatic efforts have succeeded in exposing India’s “illegal occupation” of Kashmir and the atrocities being committed against the people here. Unfortunately, there are no indications which prove that views of the international community on Kashmir have changed!

Even though Kashmir Solidarity Day may not have achieved anything, yet there is no harm in organising such events. However, what is certainly most undesirable is when any Kashmir related event organised by Islamabad evokes a response that draws a response which bolsters New Delhi’s viewpoint that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan that needs to be mutually resolved without any third country intervention which was evident once again this time. Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that holding the Kashmir solidarity conference in the British Parliament “is a great success for Pakistan in which the voice of the oppressed people of Indian occupied Kashmir has also been heard” and went on to say that “This issue has reached the centre stage by the grace of God.”

While addressing the media, Pakistan Foreign Minister said that the resolution passed after the Kashmir solidarity conference was endorsed by the members of the House of Commons giving the impression that the British Parliament had rescinded the view expressed in 2017 that “The longstanding position of the UK is that it can neither prescribe a solution to Kashmir nor act as a mediator.” The media in Pakistan too gave a similar impression and prestigious Dawn even carried a news report on February 2 captioned ‘UK rejects Indian request over Kashmir Day events’. However, the very opening sentence of this news item that reads “A number of private events organised by various campaign groups take place each year in the UK. People in the UK have a right to protest and to demonstrate their views,” makes it clear that this wasn’t an official event.

What finally emerged from this news report was that even though Pakistan Foreign Minister talked about giving ‘a very solid message to media and House of Commons, this conference wasn’t hosted by the British Government but by an informal cross-party body called ‘All Party Parliamentary Group on Pakistan’ that had some Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat members! Thus, while Qureshi is euphoric about the resolution passed in this conference and that the Kashmir issue “has reached the center stage,” this event has had two negative fallouts. Firstly, even though the Pakistan Foreign Minister spoke about giving “a solid message to media,” by barring entry of Indian media, Islamabad has unnecessarily given New Delhi a wonderful opportunity to cite this as a sign of Islamabad’s ‘insecurity’ over  the Kashmir issue in international forums.

Secondly, though Islamabad may be overjoyed by UK’s refusal to stop this conference, but let’s not forget that in this bargain London has once again reiterated that “The UK’s longstanding position is that it is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting political resolution to the situation in Kashmir, taking into account the Kashmiri people’s wishes,” which will obviously be music to New Delhi’s ears. And by adding that “Members of Parliament are independent of the government; it is for individual members to decide who they meet and for what purpose,” the British Government has washed off its hands from the Kashmir issue. Thus, the end result of the international conference on Kashmir organised in London is that while there is no indication that the international community supports the Kashmir resolution passed by All Party Parliamentary Group on Pakistan, New Delhi has got a fresh endorsement from the British Government that Kashmir is a bilateral issue that requires to be mutually resolved without making any efforts!

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