India’s behind-the-scenes diplomacy ensured there was no official presence of the UK government at an “international conference” on Kashmir in London addressed by Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, people familiar with developments said on Tuesday.
Though the Pakistan government organises or backs such events across the world to mark Kashmir Solidarity Day, which is observed on February 5, the Indian government took up the conference held within the parliament complex in London on Monday with the UK government after it became clear that Qureshi would address it.
The matter was raised with Britain through a demarche or a formal diplomatic correspondence that said London should consider New Delhi’s concerns about the event organised by UK’s All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Kashmir, the people quoted above said on condition of anonymity.
“The British side made it clear Qureshi was travelling to London in a private capacity and t
here were no plans for meetings with the UK government and that he wasn’t a guest of the government. They clarified the UK’s position on Kashmir hadn’t changed and that it was a bilateral matter to be resolved by India and Pakistan,” said one of these people, a government official.
Leading members of the APPG on Kashmir weren’t present at the conference, which was addressed by British politicians of Pakistani origin such as Nazir Ahmed and Sayeeda Warsi, who are known for their “anti-India views”, the official added. Though the conference was billed as an open event, members of the pro-India Jammu and Kashmir National Independence Alliance led by its chairman Mahmood Kashmiri were asked to leave by the organisers as they were considered a “security risk”, the people said.
A second official reiterated India’s suspicion about “duplicity” on the part of the Pakistani leadership’s approach, with Prime Minister Imran Khan speaking of better ties with India and other elements such as Qureshi apparently bent on queering the pitch by raising contentious issues.
“The British side also expressed concern about being pulled into this sort of things by Pakistan, especially since they have said Kashmir is a bilateral matter that should be handled through the Simla Agreement and the Lahore Declaration,” the second official said.