Kashmir: Human Rights Abuses

Oral Answers to Questions — Foreign and Commonwealth Office – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 30th October 2018.

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Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth 12:00 am, 30th October 2018

What recent assessment he has made of human rights abuses in Kashmir.

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State

I very much recognise that there are human rights concerns in both India-administered and Pakistan-administered Kashmir. The FCO encourages both states to uphold their international human rights obligations. Any allegations of human rights violations or abuses are concerning and must of course be thoroughly investigated, promptly and transparently.

Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth

The all-party parliamentary group on Kashmir’s report on human rights abuses, which was published this summer, reflects the UN’s findings. What discussions have the Minister or the Foreign Secretary had with the Governments of Pakistan and India about those human rights abuses? Will the Minister meet me and other members of the all-party group to discuss taking forward our recommendations?

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State

I am always happy to meet members of all-party parliamentary groups, so I would be glad to do so. We very much encourage the parties to keep the channels of dialogue open as a means of resolving differences. The hon. Lady will recognise that the UK’s long-standing position is that it is for India and Pakistan to find a lasting political resolution to the situation in Kashmir, taking account of the wishes of the Kashmiri people. The relationship between the two countries is very complex, as the hon. Lady will be aware. We encourage both sides to maintain good relations and make the most of all opportunities for dialogue.

Photo of Steven Baker Steven Baker Conservative, Wycombe

The human rights abuses reported to me by my Urdu-speaking constituents are not a complex matter; they are often simple and horrifying. Does the Minister share my concern that a lack of English language news reporting is keeping these abuses out of the public consciousness in the United Kingdom and around the world, and will he join me in calling on journalists to bring forward English language coverage so that the world can be informed?

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this matter. We persistently raise the issue of Kashmir, including human rights, with the Governments of both India and Pakistan, but my hon. Friend makes a good point about ensuring that there is at least mutually trusted media coverage of this matter. I know that the BBC’s coverage in south Asia has become more extensive, and I believe that the BBC World Service is looking to extend matters further. I will make sure that that organisation is made well aware of this point.

Photo of John Cryer John Cryer Labour, Leyton and Wanstead

I hear what the Minister says about the relationship with the two Governments, but, given that we are talking about two nuclear armed powers and that Delhi is increasingly belligerent with a relatively new Government, is there not something more that the Minister can do to bring the two powers together, given our historical relationship with Delhi and the Government in Pakistan?

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State

I know that the hon. Gentleman takes these matters very seriously, as do other Members throughout the House who represent constituencies with large Pakistani and Indian populations; I speak for my rather silent Whip, my hon. Friend Andrew Stephenson, who does a lot of work behind the scenes on this matter but is obviously not able to speak on it in Parliament. John Cryer will be aware that it is not our place to mediate, intervene or interfere in this issue, but I hope he is also aware that I raise the issue of Kashmir at every opportunity when I see my counterparts—the Indian and Pakistani Ministers—as well as the high commissioners to London, because the matter is so close to the hearts of many hon. Members.

Photo of Bob Blackman Bob Blackman Conservative, Harrow East

Last week we celebrated the Jammu and Kashmir festival, and the anniversary of the instrument of accession, whereby the whole of Jammu and Kashmir was ceded to India. Sadly, Pakistan refuses to accept this, so what is my right hon. Friend doing to encourage the Pakistani Government to dismantle the terrorist bases in Kashmir that are causing human rights abuses in the whole of Kashmir?

Photo of Mark Field Mark Field Minister of State

I know that my hon. Friend takes a strong view on this matter. We do all that we can to raise the legitimate concerns brought up by all Members in this House with the Governments in both New Delhi and Islamabad. However, we believe that the pace of progress is for India and Pakistan to determine.