Indian media were barred from covering an open-event, global conference, which was addressed by Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a committee room in the UK House of Commons complex.
The International Conference on Kashmir was labelled as an event to express “solidarity” with the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Chaired by Rehman Chishti, a Conservative Party MP, the event was organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Pakistan.
There was restricted access allowed into what had been projected as an open conference. New Delhi registered strong resentment over Qureshi being permitted to address such a meeting within the British Parliament complex.
The event was attended by Pakistani-origin British MPs and peers, including Khalid Mahmood and Baroness Sayeeda Warsi. British Sikh Labour Party MP, Tan Dhesi, was among the few Indian-origin parliamentarians seen entering the room.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had earlier said that India has “strongly” taken up the matter with the UK and hopes “they do understand our objections to proposed conference and take appropriate action”. In response, the UK government stated that Qureshi was not an official guest as he was on a private visit to the UK.
“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. Members of Parliament are independent of the government; it is for individual members to decide who they meet and for what purpose,” a Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) source said in reference to the controversial meeting.
The UK event coincided with the “Kashmir Solidarity Day”, observed by Pakistan on February 5. A rally is planned at Parliament Square by separatist groups on Tuesday, with UK-based Kashmiri Hindu outfits planning a counter-protest.
“UK Hindus strongly oppose this rally as it is dangerous and threatens the measures to rehabilitate Kashmiri Hindus back to their homeland,” said the Indo-European Kashmir Forum, an umbrella body representing Indian community groups.
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