Britain urges India, Pakistan to exercise restraint

Vidya Ram London | Updated on February 27, 2019

Britain’s Foreign Office Minister Mark Field

The British government has expressed deep concern about the “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.

Foreign Office Minister Mark Field acknowledged the need to deal with “underlying” issues,” particularly with regards to that region. He also noted that with India entering a “pre-election” period, it remained a “factor of concern.” “That is one of the reasons we want to see a de-escalation at the earliest possible opportunity,” Field told MPs.

He also said 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 later today,” Field told MPs on Wednesday, during a debate in which he urged dialogue and for the two countries to find “diplomatic solutions.”

The opposition Labour Party’s shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry also told MPs 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.

Human rights concerns

During a question and answer session in the House of Commons on Wednesday, on the rising tensions, Pulwama and the situation in Kashmir, 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, he acknowledged in response to questions around the human rights situation in Kashmir that there were “underlying issues that needed to be dealt with.”

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,” Field 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 MPs.

“This is an extremely serious situation… We will press for the importance of restraint,” he told 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, would result in Britain losing “credibility.”

With a large Indian and Pakistani Diaspora in the UK, 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 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 Field to tell Pakistan to “own up to its responsibilities.”

Published on February 27, 2019

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