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Dialogue will only lead to peace if it involves the Kashmiri people – Liz Lynne MEP

February 4, 2011 7:02 PM

West Midlands Euro MP Liz Lynne says Kashmir Solidarity Day is an opportunity to encourage dialogue to advance a genuine peace process in the territory, but efforts will be meaningless if they do not involve the Kashmiri people.

The Lib Dem MEP, President of the Lib Dem Friends of Kashmir, has again called for the European Union to be willing to play an 'honest broker' role to encourage negotiations to a just settlement.

But she warned that all sides must go beyond entrenched positions and that the EU could only be involved if invited to do so by Pakistan, India and representatives of the Kashmiri people.

She said: "As we mark Kashmir Solidarity Day in 2011 on February 5th, we have once again seen depressing examples of the violence and human rights outrages which have marked the struggle in this territory for so many years.

"It is also time to remember both the devastating floods in Pakistan and the continued difficulties in rebuilding Kashmir after the earthquake, all too often forgotten by the media here. I will continue to urge the EU and British government to do what they can to help.

"Since the many deaths by protesters in 2008, the process of bipartite dialogue between India and Pakistan has not regained real momentum. I sincerely hope we are not here next year or in 10 or 20 years time still repeating the same arguments about the need for action but without real progress.

"However, there is some cause for cautious optimism. I note the continued attempts by Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani to keep open channels of communication with India.

"At the last moment, the Indian government decided to prevent BJP extremists from moving its followers into Srinagar for provocative purposes during India's Republic Day - Kashmir's Black Day on January 26th.

"The Indian government also claim they want to reduce troop numbers in Kashmir by 25%, which sounds a lot until you remember that this will still leave half a million or more Indian soldiers. But if it happens, it is a small step in the right direction.

"The time has come for a sustained effort to engage for peace. The EU, especially through the new external action service, could play a role as an 'honest broker' to help a genuine multilateral process, as Senator George Mitchell did in Northern Ireland. But that cannot happen unless India and Pakistan and the Kashmiri people too all come together and invite the EU to take up this independent role.

"I hope Britain , America and the EU will continue to press for dialogue and progress. Kashmir is an immensely dangerous conflict that cannot just be abandoned as too difficult.

Continued dialogue between India and Pakistan governments is important but a peace process will only succeed if it involves the Kashmiri people.

All sides must agree a wider process which goes beyond entrenched positions is necessary, and invite the EU to act as a genuine honest broker. If this happens, I and many other MEPs will do their utmost to ensure that Europe rises to the challenge to help secure a just and stable peace."

ENDS

Note: Liz Lynne, MEP for the West Midlands since 1999, has taken a close interest in the conflict since she was MP for Rochdale from 1992 until 1997.

Kashmir Solidarity Day has been held every year on February 5th since 1990.