India protests UK stage for Pakistan’s Kashmir rant

India protests UK stage for Pakistan’s Kashmir rant

India has strongly objected to the UK for allowing Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi to use the House of Commons as a stage for a Kashmirconference during a visit to London this weekend. ET has reliably learnt that New Delhi has conveyed these through diplomatic channels after it emerged that the Pakistan foreign minister has a packed Kashmir agenda during his visit starting February 4.

The UK, for its part, is believed to have assured India that Qureshi will not be on an official bilateral visit and no formal meetings are scheduled for him with the British government. New Delhi, however, is keeping a close watch after Qureshi made an unprecedented phone call to Hurriyat leader Mirwaiz Farooq on Tuesday to invite him to the conference. Qureshi is also expected to join protest marches on Kashmir in London.

Confirming that India has officially raised the matter with the UK, informed sources told ET: “We have taken up the matter with the UK authorities and they are aware of our sensitivities on the motivation and timing of the visit.”

Qureshi is leading a Pakistan government effort to hold a seminar on the report of the UK all-party parliamentary group on Kashmir headed by MP Chris Leslie. The report, which was brought out last November is critical of Indian Army presence and has alleged human rights abuses in the Valley. It also called for the removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the Public Safety Act.

Qureshi has consistently riled India since the Imran Khan government took over in Islamabad. He went beyond the charted course in his UN General Assembly speech last September, where he blamed India for orchestrating the Mashtung in Baluchistan in which nearly 150 persons were killed. He brought up the Samjhauta blasts and Kulbhushan Jadhav to make the point that India was sponsoring terror.

Further, Qureshi mocked at India when the government sent a delegation to the Kartarpur event, saying Pakistan had successfully delivered a googly on India. And then the call to Mirwaiz, which breaks the unwritten understanding on how to engage the Kashmiri separatists. Interestingly, Qureshi is seen as the point man of Pakistan’s deep state.

India, sources said, was upset that the UK was allowing this event. However, Pakistan has for long cultivated a lobby of British MPs to gather support for its Kashmir position.

Qureshi was also the foreign minister in November 2008 when the 26/11 attacks were carried out in Mumbai. He was, in fact, in Delhi on a visit when the attacks took place. Then external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee had to call and ask him to leave India immediately.

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