The Indian media was not allowed entry into a global conference, which was projected as an ‘open’ event, addressed by Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in a committee room in the UK House of Commons on Monday (4).
The International Conference on Kashmir was billed as an event to express “solidarity” with the people of Kashmir.
Chaired by Rehman Chishti, a Pakistan-occupied Kashmir-born 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.
India had registered strong opposition over Qureshi being allowed to address such a meeting within the Parliament building.
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 issue with the UK and hopes “they do understand our objections to proposed conference and take appropriate action”.
In response, the UK government had said Qureshi was not an official guest as he was on a private visit to Britain.
“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 (5), 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.