Panelists discuss the missed opportunity for a political solution in Kashmir, urging Pakistan to crack down on homegrown terror, and the conditions for resuming bilateral Indo-Pak talks.
On Thursday, 7th November Sir Mark Lyall Grant, National Security Advisor to former British prime ministers Theresa May and David Cameron briefly mentioned an internal government survey that assessed the financial cost of Kashmir to the UK over a decade ago. Three months after the revocation of Article 370 by the Indian Government, Sir Grant spoke of the "missed opportunity" of a solution during the talks between former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf in 2001.
"The political stars never quite aligned but a solution similar to the Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement, with a soft border allowing locals to travel freely from one part of Kashmir to the other, will have to be the outcome of any peaceful solution," he said.
Besides the financial cost, Sir Grant also expressed concerns about the risks to security challenges and radicalisation. Denouncing the new Labour Party and its present leader Jeremy Corbyn, British Labour politician Jack Straw spoke about the international implications of Kashmir.
"Pakistan has always tried to internationalise Kashmir whereas India maintained that it is a bilateral issue. What Prime Minister Modi has done [by revoking Article 370] is outrageous...but the reason Pakistan has far less traction on this issue internationally is precisely because of the role of the ISI and its sponsorship of state-funded terrorism," said Jack Straw.
The panel discussion titled 'The Cost to Britain of the Kashmir Crisis: Is There a Solution?' was also attended by former Permanent Pakistani Ambassador to the UN, Maleeha Lodhi, and Indian Journalist Nidhi Razdan.
"Nobody wants to see a further escalation in the region. We are on the cusp and brink of a much bigger crisis and the international community must stop being a fire brigade and intervene to find a peaceful solution,” urged Lodhi.
The diplomat stressed that Pakistan stands ready to resume an unconditional talk with India. However, highlighting the leap of faith that Indian Prime Ministers including Narendra Modi have taken in past whilst holding talks with its western neighbour, Razdan stressed how “dialogue cannot take place with a gun held to your head”. Enlisting the years of insurgency in the region after Pakistan had failed to grab Kashmir since 1948 she said,
"Pakistan is a breeding ground for terrorists and it is acknowledged by none other than its prime minister, Imran Khan, who candidly said during a visit to the United States in July this year that were 40 different militant groups operating within Pakistan. Therefore, serious concerns remain in India concerning terror groups operating from Pakistan.
“This is not an apocalypse in Kashmir, no hospitals are turning into graveyards and no food shortages. The Indian government maintains that ending the special status is all for the good of the people and the development of the region. But, ironically, the people in whose name this has been done were not consulted at all.”
Organised by CTD Advisors at Chatham House, Abdurehman Chinoy, a London-based entrepreneur said,
"We need to have a dialogue to resolve this Kashmir issue, so the South Asian community continues to live in a more friendly way outside India and Pakistan.
"My humble message to prime minister Modi and Prime Minister Khan is that both leaders represent around 1.5 billion people globally; while it is easy to head towards confrontation, the dialogue could bring more stability and eventually prosperity in both countries."