European Parliament committee adopts pro-India Kashmir report
Malaysia Sun - 21 March 2007
The European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee (AFET) Wednesday adopted a report on Kashmir in a move seen by observers as a victory for Indian diplomacy.
Sixty members of the AFET voted in favour of the report following 28 compromise proposals, only one voted against and 11 abstained. The amended report will now go before the plenary of the European Parliament (EP) for approval in May.
'I am very pleased indeed that we succeeded in having the vote,'' rapporteur of the report 'Kashmir: Present Situation and Future Prospects', Baroness Emma Nicholson, told INEP in an interview.
She noted that that some British Members of European Parliament (MEPs) were against a vote.
'They had declared the vote will not happen, it will not happen in two months or three years and that the report will be crushed completely and I will be dismissed,' said Nicholson, herself a British Liberal MEP.
'Today's vote is a triumph and exactly correct. Now we look forward to the plenary session,' she said.
'The report has been battered but I think it has emerged stronger.
It had a fantastic majority,'' said Nicholson.
She noted that the draft report has been modified by a number of amendments but the substance of the report remains unchanged.
The most controversial clause in the report on plebiscite in Kashmir, however, appears to have been diluted.
'I am checking now what exactly has happened. We have put in that the conditions for the plebiscite have not been met,' said Nicholson.
Pakistan and Pakistani-backed Kashmiri groups had been intensely lobbying to amend the report that criticized the democracy-deficit in Pakistan and the human rights situation in the Pakistani-administered part of Kashmir.
Islamabad was particularly irked over the report's dismissal of calls for plebiscite to resolve the Kashmir issue.
The original draft report had said that 'continuing calls for a plebiscite on the final status of Jammu and Kashmir are wholly out of step with the needs of the local people and thus damaging to their interests.'
'We support the peace process, we are against the plebiscite in principle but we believe in the right of self-determination,' said Nicholson.
Charles Tannock, spokesperson for the British Conservative party and shadow rapporteur of the Kashmir report, said he has been in 'favour of changing the tone of the report to get rid of the more offensive and insulting part, but I see the essential substance of the report is in tact.'
The report, he said, condemns cross-border terrorism and says that conditions for plebiscite have not been met so there cannot be a plebiscite on this issue.
'I am absolutely sure that those who lost today, particularly lobbies and people who feel strongly about the report tried to kill the report. It was a disgrace that in the Pakistani press it was reported that there will not be a vote today and that they are going to kill the report,' Tannock told INEP.
He noted that till the last moment there were moves to postpone the voting.
Tannock, who described himself as a friend of India said, 'I am 75% satisfied, not 100 percent' with the adopted report.
According to EP sources, British MEP Richard Howitt of the Socialist Group had done intense lobbying in the last two days to postpone the voting and kill the report.
Most of the MEPs interested in the Kashmir report are British who have large Pakistani, Indian and Kashmiri communities in their constituencies back home.
Sajjad Karim , Liberal British MEP, said there has 'been some movement in the right direction'.
'We have the plenary to vote yet to take place in May. I think there is a need to bring further amendments. It is for that reason that I abstained from voting in support of the report,' said Karim who is of Pakistani origin.
He said that his amendment proposal to include plebiscite is the main ambition of the people of Kashmir was rejected.
Karim said he will try to include this amendment during the plenary vote in the EP in May.
Barrister Majid Tramboo, who heads the Brussels-based Kashmir Centre, said there 'is some improvement and some grey areas which we will clean up during the plenary period.'
The text has been improved dramatically so our right of self-determination has been mentioned, said Tramboo who has been leading the campaign to get the report changed.
Sunil Prasad, president of the Global Organisation for People of Indian Origin in Belgium (GOPIO) and Europe India Chamber of Commerce general secretary, said, 'the passing of the report itself is a big achievement for India.'
'It is a victory for the people of Kashmir and their aspirations. It is a victory for Indian diplomacy,' he told INEP.
The report was to be adopted by AFET in January but following a record 450 amendment proposals the vote was postponed.
The Pakistan Observer newspaper in a news item published on Jan 16 reported that a vast majority of the amendments received were from Pakistan-backed Kashmiri groups.
'The EU report on Kashmir triggered an immediate response from Pakistan, which set up a high-profile team to tackle the situation... the job of lobbying to seek amendments in the EU draft report was handed over to ISI '(Pakistan's intelligence service), said the paper.
Majid Tramboo was assigned the task of lobbying by Pakistan, wrote the paper.