New Delhi: The Strasbourg-based European Parliament is expected to debate on the Kashmir issue and human rights situation in the Valley, due to a communication blockade, on 17 September. This will be the second time since 2008 that the European Parliament General Assembly is likely to discuss Kashmir.
Pakistan, meanwhile, is planning to move a resolution on Kashmir at the ongoing (9-27 September) 42nd meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva. The deadline for Pakistan to move the resolution is 19 September.
The European Parliament, which is an important forum for political debate and decision-making of the European Union (EU), has decided to debate the recent steps taken by the Narendra Modi government of abrogating Article 370 that gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir and the ongoing communication blockade in the Valley.
The current presidency of the European Parliament is held by Finland and it will decide on who makes the final remarks on the Kashmir debate, following which the issue will be opened for discussion, sources said.
In July 2008, the European Parliament had passed a resolution, calling on India to conduct an “independent and impartial investigation” into the unidentified mass graves discovered in Jammu and Kashmir since 2006.
EU concerned about ‘well-being’ of people
While the EU considers Article 370 as India’s internal matter, it is also “concerned about the well-being of the people in the Valley under such an unprecedented lockdown for over 40 days,” a source, representing one of the member nations of the EU, said.
During External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s visit to Brussels on 30 August, the EU had released a statement in which it stressed on “the importance of steps to restore the rights and freedom of the population in Kashmir…The High Representative reaffirmed the EU’s support to a peaceful solution to the crisis in Kashmir through bilateral dialogue between India and Pakistan”.
“If the European Parliament conducts a debate on Kashmir it will be a mild embarrassment for India. However, it has no bearing on the ongoing UNHRC meet at Geneva,” Dilip Sinha, former Indian ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told ThePrint.
In the meanwhile, some members of the European Parliament led by Richard Corbett, co-chair of the Friends of Kashmir group, have called for a travel and trade ban with India. They have also asked the European Parliament to move a resolution that can be presented to the EU.
The European Parliament is one of the seven institutions of the EU. But in matters related to foreign policy and security, the EU’s ultimate decision-making body is the European Council — which comprises of the heads of state or government of all EU countries. In 2014, the European Parliament had welcomed the seamless conduct of the first two phases of assembly elections in J&K.
‘Not easy for Pakistan to pass resolution on Kashmir’
When the 42nd UNHRC session began on 7 September, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had stated that the country will move a resolution on Kashmir. But sources said that it will not be easy for Islamabad to have the resolution passed because it will require at least 24 votes from among UNHRC’s 47 members.
Besides, the Indian delegation at Geneva — led by Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Ajay Bisaria — has been doing a “massive lobbying” with all the member countries to prevent Pakistan from taking such a step.
“For Pakistan to have the resolution passed won’t be an easy task because the schedule is very tight at the moment and it will require heavy campaigning on their part. It will be tedious for them to counter the lobbying done by India,” said Sinha, who was also the vice-president of the UNHRC and vice-chairman of the South Centre.
According to the UNHRC norms, Sinha said, once a member country is able to have a resolution passed it will also have to build up a case to be able to obtain a mandate for an independent commission of inquiry.
Last week, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had urged the UNHRC to set up a commission to inquire “Indian brutality” and “gross violations of human rights” in the Kashmir Valley.
On 11 September, Vijay Thakur Singh, secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, had hit out at Pakistan by calling its move a “malicious” campaign on the Kashmir issue and condemned the country’s “state-sponsored terrorism”.
She also met UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet and informed the latter about India’s concerns on cross border terrorism by Pakistan.
Also read: Why Pakistan is changing its tune on Kashmir