The United Kingdom on Wednesday said that the situation in Jammu and Kashmir remains a matter for India and Pakistan to find a lasting political resolution, reported PTI.
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Minister Nigel Adams said that it was not for Britain to play a role in the bilateral matter, but accepted that there were human rights concerns on both sides.
“The government’s policy [on Kashmir] remains stable, it’s unchanged,” Adams said during a discussion in the House of Parliament complex on the political situation in Kashmir. “We continue to believe that this is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting political resolution to the situation that takes into account the wishes of the Kashmiri people as laid out in the Simla Agreement.”
Adams, who is also the minister for Asia, made a reference to the District Development Council democratic elections held in the area in December. Labour Party MP Barry Gardiner witnessed free and fair participation of over 50% of the local voters.
The Farooq Abdullah-led People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration had swept the DDC elections, winning 110 seats, while the Bharatiya Janata Party emerged as the single-largest party with 75 seats.
On the Indian government’s August 5, 2019, decision to scrap Article 370 that granted special to the erstwhile state, Adams said that he welcomed the release of politicians held in protective custody and reports of broadband restrictions being lifted in the region.
“We understand some of these restrictions may have been relaxed, with broadband partially restored along with some access to social media,” he said. “This is welcome news, but more should be done.”
The debate, organised by Labour MP Sarah Owen, included the participation of cross-party British MPs, many of whom have a large Kashmiri diaspora constituency base. “The people of Kashmir deserve the opportunity to thrive and succeed, so more broadly we welcome the commitment that the Indian government has made to the economic and social development of Kashmir,” said Adams.
India has reiterated various times that the revocation of Article 370 is an internal matter and asked Pakistan, which has raised the matter at global forums, to accept the reality and stop all “anti-India propaganda”.
Almost all of the Kashmir Valley’s political leadership, including three former chief ministers – Mehbooba Mufti, Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah – were detained in August 2019 following the revocation of Article 370. Omar Abdullah was released seven months later on March 24 as the Jammu and Kashmir administration revoked his detention order under the Public Safety Act. Farooq Abdullah was released on March 13. People’s Conference chief Sajjad Lone was released in July, while Mufti was released in October.
The Jammu and Kashmir, however, has continued to extend the ban on high-speed 4G internet services, except in Ganderbal and Udhampur districts. The latest extension, done in the “interest of sovereignty and integrity of India” will end on January 22 if it is not extended further.
Since last year, the Indian High Commission in London has sought to highlight a smart wi-fi project that has enabled high-speed internet access in the region. Despite terror threats, challenging weather conditions and the coronavirus pandemic, the DDC elections were concluded in December 2020.
“J&K [Jammu and Kashmir] has not only normalised since August 2019 but is actually progressing on a positive trajectory of optimism and development in all sectors,” a High Commission fact-sheet said.