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Normalization of Pakistan-India relations: Greater role of European Commission sought

  • Lawmakers of the EU Parliament say a renewed attempt at peace talks is needed more than ever
Published August 7, 2022
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ISLAMABAD: Fourteen members of the European Parliament have sought greater role of the European Commission to actively encourage India and Pakistan to move toward normalisation of diplomatic relations and the resumption of formal bilateral talks.

Through a letter addressed to Ursula Von Der Leyen, President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, Vice President of the Commission/ High Representative, 14 members of the EU Parliament, including Fabio Massimo Castaldo, Lorant Vincze, Sabrina Pignedoll, Eugenia Rodriguez Palop, and others, have also expressed their serious concern over the “grave and systematic human rights violation of the Kashmiri people” in the Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.

“We, undersigned members of the European Parliament are writing to you in order to bring your attention to the continued grave and systematic human rights violations of the Kashmiri people due to the unresolved dispute over the status of the region,” stated the letter.

Due to the continued tensions, they pointed out that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have been subject to intolerable suppression of their freedom and fundamental rights over the past seven decades, as shown by the accounts or many human rights organisations and the reports of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Since the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act on 5 August 2019; however, it appears more evident that India has abandoned any political approach to the insurgency in Kashmir and is managing the crisis with almost exclusively military means, they noted.

As per Amnesty International’s Report of 2021, indeed, since the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in 2019, the MPs stated that the Indian authorities have arrested many human rights defenders including journalists and activists under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, India’s primary counter-terrorism law. At least 36 journalists have faced interrogation, raids, threats, or physical assault for their reporting until now.

According to Access Now, people in Jammu and Kashmir faced at least 85 internet shutdowns in 2021 - one of the highest in the world, they added.

“Despite the Indian government claim that its decisions would put an end to militancy in the region and that there has been a significant improvement in the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir, Kashmiris are increasingly alienated from the Indian state, with more and more youth joining insurgent groups, causing the long-standing violence against civilians to escalate even further in the recent times,” the EU MPs further stated.

During the last few months, they pointed out that 13 Muslim civilians and six Hindu civilians, including ethnic Kashmiris, were killed by militants.

Moreover, they added that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act legislation that officially tasks the Indian security forces with protecting civilians, upholding national security and combating violence by armed groups has historically been abused, with security force personnel committing many grave human rights violations which have gone unpunished.

“The failure to address these abuses has violated the rights of the victims to justice and remedy, which is enshrined in the Constitution of India and the international human rights laws,” they further stated in the letter. Against this backdrop, the letter added, “We have also witnessed some positive development in the past few years.”

In February 2021, the MPs added that India and Pakistan recommitted to the 2003 ceasefire after holding back-channel talks. However, while back-channel talks are encouraging, and were welcomed by the EU High Representative, the ceasefire accord alone will not bring about long-term stability, especially in the absence of proper diplomatic ties, they added.

“Kashmir is internationally recognised as one of the most militarized zones in the world and a tremendously dangerous conflict flash point between two nuclear powers. We believe that we should look at this region in with great concern and avoid at all costs an escalation of the conflict by strengthening our dialogue with India, Pakistan and the representatives of Kashmir in order to recover the dimension of dialogue, negotiation and diplomacy in the resolution of the conflict,” they added.

They further stated: “We believe that the European Union and its member states can play a crucial role in helping address this deadlock, especially in the context of the resumption in late June of negotiations between India and the European Union fort comprehensive free trade agreement.”

“Therefore, we are calling on you, as commission President and VP/HR, on behalf of the European Union, to: - express our concerns with the Indian government on these issues and to call on India to fulfil its obligations under International Law, especially the imperative of protecting civilians and ask to all the actors involved to make a real commitment to put a halt to any form of violence, abuse and discrimination against the Kashmiri and to guarantee the full respect of their human rights: and - use all of our diplomatic and political channels to actively encourage India and Pakistan to move toward normalisation of diplomatic relations and the resumption of formal bilateral talks,” they further demanded through the letter.

They further emphasized by saying that a renewed attempt at peace talks is needed more than ever.

In order to do this, they added that it is required for all the actors to stray from the logic of conflict, stop exploiting and fomenting ethnic and religious tensions and accept to give Kashmiri people hope and a chance at self-determination.

“As European Parliamentarians, we will do our part, continuing and increasing our engagement in parliamentary diplomacy with colleagues in India and Pakistan to foster a climate of detente and dialogue, and being vocal in calling for a real change in Kashmir,” they vowed through the letter.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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