Some quiet behind-the-scenes diplomacy by India last week ensured Pakistan’s efforts to highlight alleged human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir at a conference in London did not attract any British minister or MP of note, three people familiar with the developments said on Tuesday.
The conference, addressed by Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday on the occasion of the so-called Kashmir Solidarity Day observed on 4 February every year, drew only British MPs of Pakistani origin, said one of people mentioned above. The meeting was held on the premises of the British House of Commons.
Qureshi’s three-day visit that ends on Wednesday has been treated as a private visit by the British, with no appointment granted with foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, a second person said. Efforts by Pakistan to ensure even a chance meeting with Hunt did not bear fruit, the person said.
“Despite its best efforts (to internationalise the Kashmir issue) Pakistan failed," said the first person mentioned above. “The British government did not extend any support" to the event, the person said.
This was the result of deft behind the scenes diplomacy by India as Qureshi made efforts to “internationalise" the Kashmir dispute, the second person said. Last week, Qureshi angered India by holding a telephone conversation with Kashmiri separatist leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq. New Delhi called in Pakistan’s envoy Sohail Mehmood to issue a strongly worded protest warning of consequences if Islamabad persisted with its attempts to violate India’s sovereignty. Undeterred, Qureshi dialled another separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani and reportedly discussed the Kashmir Solidarity event. Qureshi’s outreach to the separatists came after Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan seemingly offered an olive branch to India by agreeing to open a corridor for Indian Sikh pilgrims to travel to Pakistan.
New Delhi, which conveyed its reservations about Qureshi’s meet to Britain, kept up efforts given that London had last year made no attempt to stop a Sikh separatist event where the tricolour was reportedly burnt. “The end result has been the acceptance of our position by the UK," the second person said. “The UK has officially clarified that their position on the Kashmir issue hasn’t changed," the second person said referring to London’s stand that the dispute should be resolved bilaterally by India and Pakistan.