Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Kashmir report sparks debate in European Parliament

New Europe - 3 March 2007

A debate on compromise amendments to a draft report on Kashmir in the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the European Parliament (EP) on February 26 turned into acrimonious exchanges between some of the pro-Pakistani Members of the European Parliament (MEP) and the rapporteur of the report, Baroness Emma Nicholson.

“The report remains a patronising, insulting piece of work,” shouted British MEP Sajjad Karim who is of Pakistani origin. If adopted, he warned, the report could do “potential damage to EU-Pakistan relations.”

James Elles, co-founder of the All-Party Group on Kashmir, condemned the report as “unbalanced and biased” and called for the creation of a drafting committee to amend and prepare the report.

A visibly indignant but composed Nicholson retorted, saying “it is a pity that the British are washing their dirty linen in public.” Most of the MEPs interested in the Kashmir report are British who have large Pakistani, Indian and Kashmiri communities in their constituencies back hone.

Earlier, Nicholson had urged that the debate on the 16 compromise proposals be held in an “open and constructive spirit.” Nicholson said she has been working with shadow rapporteurs form other political groups on the compromise proposals to the report titled “Kashmir: Present situation and future prospects.”

She noted that the record 450 amendments that were tabled at the last hearing on the Kashmir draft report in January showed the huge level of interest and concern that the issue of Kashmir generates. When during the heated exchanges, Nicholson suggested that the amendment proposals “have come straight from Islamabad,” and accused Karim of writing to the Pakistani diaspora to press for the amendments, Karim shouted “outrageous, outrageous.”

The pro-Indian MEP Charles Tannock said he found the report “factually correct in content” and added that the report was open to compromise amendments. Jo linen, a German MEP, said we should provide an objective report and noted that “it was on a good path.”

On her part, Baroness Sarah Ludford said she “still didn’t think the balance was right.” “There is a hole in the middle of the report,” she said, while another British MEP, Richard Howitt, even suggested to let the report “sit on the table” and halt the debate.

The pro-Pakistani MEPs are particularly agitated about one reference in the report which calls for a plebiscite on the final status of Jammu and Kashmir to be “wholly out of step,” and they demanded that it be removed from the report.

Tannock replied that a resolution passed by the UNSC 58 years ago is a dead letter. The committee is expected to vote on the amended report on March 21 and, if adopted, the report will go before the plenary session of the EP, probably in May, for approval.

The new chairman of the committee, Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, closed the two-hour debate by urging compromise on the report. “The final clearance is the democratic vote,” said the Polish MEP. Although neutral observers are confident that the amended report will be adopted in March, the shouting match was clearly won by the pro-Pakistani lobby.

Barrister Majid Tramboo, director of the Brussels-based Kashmir Centre, who is spearheading the Pakistani lobbying machine, asserted that “this report will never pass in the committee.”