British MPs Relaunch Kashmir Campaign

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London: A group of seven Tory MPs have relaunched a group named ‘The Conservative Friends of Kashmir’, which is aimed at campaigning for ‘self-determination’ in Kashmir, sparking outrage among Tory-supporting British Indians.

The group recently tweeted, “We have relaunched the Conservatives Friends of Kashmir. We campaign for self-determination and an end to human rights abuses in Kashmir and Jammu. There is growing support for our cause amongst Conservative MPs and activists. Follow us and our work!”

The move has unnerved the Conservative Friends of India (CFI), which promotes the party among British Indians.

Earlier this week, the group retweeted a tweet from Pakistan controlled Kashmir (PcK) President Masood Khan’s Twitter handle, which said, “We are immensely grateful to you for re-launching the Conservatives Friends of Kashmir. Your voices shine like a ray of hope for the wounded Kashmiris in their darkest hour. Besieged, battered, disenfranchised — they look towards you and your allies for justice.”

The Tory MPs in the group include Paul Bristow (Peterborough), James Daly (Bury North), Jack Brereton (Stoke on Trent South) and Steve Baker (Wycombe), all representing constituencies with significant Pakistani populations.

Brereton, Daly and Bristow also sit on the All Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir (APPGK), which is chaired by Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, who was deported to Dubai on February 17 after being informed at the Delhi airport that her e-visa was not valid. The following day she flew to Pakistan and met Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Kuldeep Shekhawat, president of the Overseas Friends of BJP (UK), plans to draft a letter and send it to the co-chairs of the Conservative party, which he claimed more than 200 PIO activists will sign.

“We are not happy with this kind of anti-India move by the Conservative team. Britain has no right to interfere in India’s internal matters,” he said.

Lord Rami Ranger, a patron of the Conservative Friends of India, has written a letter to Bristow and Daly, appealing them not to undo the work he has done.

“Kashmir is dividing the Conservatives,” Ranger said.

“This is a fringe group created by a few MPs to support their Mirpuri constituents. Pakistan will be behind this. They take these MPs out and wine and dine with them. This could severely damage the reputation of Tories among British Indians.

“Not only will they stop voting, they will also stop giving donations to the party once they hear about this. The UK is trying to negotiate an FTA with the largest democracy in the world. This is hardly going to go down well,” Ranger added.

India Slams Pak For Raising Kashmir

Meanwhile India on Thursday hit out at Pakistan for raising the Kashmir issues at a virtual meeting of multilateral grouping CICA, and advised Islamabad to cease its “overt and covert” support to cross-border terrorism.

In a sharp reaction, the Ministry of External Affairs said Pakistan has misused another forum by continuing its “spurious narrative” about India.

Pakistan raised the Kashmir issue at the ministerial meeting of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), an intergovernmental forum of 27 countries.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar represented India at the meeting.

The MEA said Pakistan has no locus standi to comment on internal affairs of India, asserting that the Union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have been and will remain an integral part of the country.

“Pakistan’s remarks today constitute gross interference in India’s internal affairs, sovereignty and territorial integrity which is inconsistent with the CICA Declaration on the Principles Guiding Relations between the CICA Member States of September 1999,” the MEA said, in response to remarks by Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.

It said Pakistan is the “global epicentre” of terrorism and continues to be the source of terrorist activities in India.

“We advise Pakistan to cease its sponsorship and overt and covert support to terrorism against India. This will enable the two countries to engage and address issues bilaterally rather than distract this important forum from its agenda,” the MEA said.

In his address at the CICA meeting, Jaishankar called for greater collective efforts to counter terrorism and its sponsors.

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