Last Friday evening (Oct 29th) I was privileged to be the guest (along with my Press Officer Neelam Cartmell) of the Kashmiri community in the Midlands, at Lahore Kebabish in Derby (where, I may say, you can get an excellent curry supper).
There are believed to be at least half a million people of Kashmiri origin living in the UK, and they are naturally concerned about the travails of their mother-land. They point out that perhaps 80,000 Kashmiris have died in violence in Kashmir in the last fifty years, and an estimated 700,000 Indian troops are stationed there. This makes the Kashmir problem arguably bigger than the Israel/Palestine issue – yet it gets a tiny fraction of the international attention and media coverage that is accorded to Palestine.
They also note, with some regret, that the Disasters Emergency Committee has only managed to raise for the floods in Pakistan about a tenth of what it raised for the Haiti earthquake. They fear that the problems of Kashmir have been forgotten by the international community – or that India has become so important as a trading partner that no one wants to offend it.
Most of all, they are angry that UN Conventions agreed over 60 years ago, which promised self-determination to Kashmir, have never been implemented, and show no signs of being implemented. They seem to have been, in effect, forgotten.
I was able to point to the flood relief efforts that the EU has made in Pakistan (though the money might have been better spent by member-states than by Brussels), and I was able to thank them for briefing me on the problems that Kashmir faces, and on their concerns. But I had to admit frankly that as an MEP, there is really not much I can do to resolve the issues (beyond giving them an airing), any more than I can resolve the problems of Gaza or Northern Ireland.
But there is one thing. They drew my attention to a recent incident – no, atrocity – in which 118 Kashmiris, including women and children, died in the Kashmir Valley. I have promised them that if they can give me relevant details and sources on this news, I will at least raise it with our new EU “Foreign Minister” Cathy Ashton, and ask what view the Commission takes, and how it may respond. It’s not a lot, but at least it’s something.