Jammu and Kashmir

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:47 pm on 27th February 2019.

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Photo of Debbie Abrahams Debbie Abrahams Labour, Oldham East and Saddleworth 12:47 pm, 27th February 2019

Thank you, Mr Speaker, for granting this urgent question. I am grateful to the Minister for his response, but this has been an ongoing situation since independence in 1947, and successive Governments have failed, in dealing with the issues associated with Kashmir, to help facilitate peace alongside our international allies.

As the Minister has said, he is aware of the recent aerial attacks from India and then from Pakistan, following on from the militant attack in the Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir and the death of the 40 Indian troops. This is a proscribed group in Pakistan. I understand that it is said to be apparently based there, but as I say, it has been proscribed by Pakistan. I am grateful to the Minister for reporting on the action he has already taken and the dialogue he has already had with counterparts in the high commissions for both India and Pakistan, and I would be grateful if he reported back once he has had meetings on this, because it is a very fast-moving situation.

The Minister mentioned the UN Security Council. What specific action has been decided on there? India has said that airstrikes in Balakot in north-western Pakistan yesterday were in response to the militants’ attack and killed a large number of militants, but Pakistan has said there were no casualties. Will the Minister clarify these reports? Today, Pakistan claims to have shot down two Indian jets when they entered Pakistani airspace, and the Indian news agency Asian News International has reported that a Pakistani jet has also been shot down on the Pakistan side of the line of control. Again, if the Minister could expand on some of this information, that would be very helpful.

In the light of the escalation in military action, will the Foreign Secretary be altering his travel advice to UK citizens? The Minister knows there is large Kashmiri diaspora in the UK, many of whom have families still based there, and their safety is a real concern for them. As I say, the escalating tensions have had a profound effect on our communities. What assurance can he give them that the UK Government are doing all they can not just to de-escalate tensions now, but to work towards a sustainable peace in the region?

Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers. This is not just an issue for the region; it is an issue for the whole world. As the chair of the all-party group on Kashmir, I have repeatedly reiterated our commitment to supporting a process of peace and reconciliation in the region, but the UK Government need to step up and help to facilitate this, alongside our international partners. We have a vital role to play, as I say, not just in de-escalation, but in terms of a sustainable peace, and I urge the Minister to do all that he can to do this.