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What the EU says about Kashmir
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March 22, 2007 09:52 IST

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the European Parliament has adopted a report on Kashmir, incorporating recommendation that conditions for plebiscite have not been met and there cannot be a plebiscite in Kashmir.

Considered by observers as a victory for Indian diplomacy, 60 members of the committee voted in favour, one against with 11 abstaining. The report with 28 compromise proposals will now go before the plenary of the European Parliament for approval in May.

"I am very pleased indeed that we succeeded in having the vote," Baroness Emma Nicholson, Rapporteur of the report 'Kashmir: Present Situation and Future Prospects' said last evening.

She said the Committee placed its full support behind the Composite Dialogue process, "which is resulting in a range of Confidence Building Measures that have enabled, among others, divided families to meet for the first time in 60 years -- a process which I witnessed personally last summer."

"The European Parliament has underscored the high value that it places on democracy and human rights for all people in the region, and particularly for earthquake victims, forced migrants, refugees and others in need" in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, Gilgit and Baltistan and Jammu and Kashmir, she said.

Some British Members of European Parliament were against the vote, she added.

"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," Nicholson, herself a British Liberal Democrat MEP, said.

Baroness Nicholson said the report has been "battered but I think it has emerged stronger. It had a fantastic majority."

Though the draft report has been modified by a number of amendments the substance of the report remained unchanged, she said.

Pakistan and Pakistani-backed Kashmiri groups had been doing intense lobbying to amend the report, which criticised the democracy-deficit in Pakistan and the human rights situation in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

Islamabad was particularly irked over the report's dismissal of calls for plebiscite to resolve 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.

Dr Charles Tannock, spokesperson for 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."

He said the report condemned cross-border terrorism and said that conditions for plebiscite have not been met so there could not 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 it. 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 India News in Europe Programme.

Describing himself as a friend of India, Tannock said "I am 75 per cent satisfied, not 100 per cent" with the adopted 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 Kari, Liberal British MEP who abstained from the vote, said he would try to include the amendment on plebiscite during the plenary vote in the European Parliament in May.

Sunil Prasad, president of the Global Organisation for People of Indian Origin in Belgium 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 said.

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