Asian MPs warn against Kashmir fallout in UK


Preet Gill MP
Preet Gill MP

by Nadeem Badshah

INDIA and Pakistan have been urged by British MPs to hold emergency peace talks to prevent a nuclear war over Kashmir.

Politicians have expressed concerns over the tensions and urged the UK government to intervene to ensure the neighbours arrange a summit.

Prime minister Theresa May spoke with her Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan last weekend
over the crisis and stressed the importance of the country “taking action against all terrorist groups”.

The talks came after Pakistan handed over captured Indian air force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman to Indian officials at a border crossing last week, a move praised by UK politicians for reducing tensions.

Preet Gill, Labour MP for Birmingham Edgbaston, told Eastern Eye: “The diaspora communities are rightly concerned about the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan.

“It has been heartening, however, to see the #NoToWar campaign trending on social media and support for the campaign being shared by both sides. No one wants war.

“We need to encourage both sides to sit down and talk to work towards a peaceful resolution to the continuing Kashmir conflict. It is also vital that we listen to the views of the Kashmiri community in the UK to maintain good relations.”

Tensions have been running high since a Indian aircraft crossed into Pakistan to launch a strike against militants blamed for a suicide bombing in Indian controlled Kashmir that killed 40 troops.

Their neighbours responded by shooting down the fighter jet and capturing pilot Varthaman.

Last weekend two peace rallies were hosted in Manchester, a region home to Britain’s largest Kashmiri community.

Afzal Khan, MP for Manchester Gorton, said the escalation of violence between India and Pakistan “saddens me greatly”. He told Eastern Eye: “Recent events clearly reveal that it
is not just an issue between India and Pakistan; it desperately requires international
attention.

“The UK government need to facilitate talks and to play a greater role in de-escalating
the dangerous level of tension between the countries.

“More needs to be done at the UN level to ensure that there is an international investigation of what has happened, and to move towards the core issue, which is the issue of Kashmir.

“My constituents comprise both of Indians and Pakistanis, all of whom do not want to see a war between their motherlands.

“I welcome the gesture of peace made by the Pakistani prime minister after the air strikes and I hope that the two nuclear-armed countries can make a commitment to peace and
prosperity, for the sake of humanity.”

Tan Singh Dhesi MP, Labour MP for Slough in Berkshire, raised his concerns about the
conflict in parliament last week. He also welcomed the recent opening of the Indo-Pak border allowing Sikhs pilgrims to pay homage in Pakistan.

He said: “It’s a very welcome step by the Pakistan prime minister to announce the release of the captured Indian pilot as a peace gesture. Escalating tensions and talk of war are not
helpful at all. That will only bring more misery to the long suffering, but wonderful people of Jammu and Kashmir and beyond.”

Zahra Shah is CEO of the British Pakistan Foundation which organises networking and mentoring events.

She said: “We feel India and Pakistan should resolve all issues through peaceful dialogue as requested by Imran Khan.

“We feel that the Pakistan government and Armed Forces are showing wise leadership
as their focus is on maintaining peace in the region, which is in the long-term interest
and benefits of the people in this region.”

Businesswoman and former Apprentice contestant Saira Khan, who is of Kashmiri heritage, said her family in the region are living in fear.

She said: “My family and I are terrified things could escalate into a bloodier mess. I hope both leaders find common ground. Stop the fighting and start talking. The people deserve
peace. Like Gandhi said, an eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind.”