The EU is being urged to do more to help defuse growing tensions between India and Pakistan over the long running Kashmir conflict.
The two sides have disputed the territory for nearly 70 years - since independence from Britain.
Both countries claim the territory but control only parts of it and two out of three wars fought between India and Pakistan, both nuclear armed powers, have centred on Kashmir.
However, speaking in Brussels on Thursday, a leading Kashmiri human rights activist told of mounting “atrocities” in the territory, calling on the international community, including the EU, to play a more proactive role in resolving the dispute.
Masood Iqbal Mir, General Secretary of the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, told a press conference of the “rapidly deteriorating” human rights situation in occupied Kashmir.
He said: “There are mass killings taking place in occupied Kashmir and the international community seems disinterested. We are here today to call on the EU, in particular, to play a bigger role in resolving this bloody conflict.
“We believe that the EU, with its experience, can act as a mediator in bringing the two sides, Indian and Pakistan, together to try and find a peaceful resolution.”
He pointed out that in 1948 the people of Kashmir were promised, by UN Security Council Resolution, a plebiscite on their wishes for the future of the country.
He said, “We are still waiting.”
He warned that the ongoing conflict between India and Pakistan had brought the two nuclear armed nations close to war on more than one occasion.
The Belgium-based general secretary also highlighted the role of China, which along with India and Pakistan he said also has a mandate over Kashmir, and the increased presence and activity of Chinese military forces in the country.
It was said that the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society organisation believes that since 1989 there have been over 70,000 killings, more than 8,000 forced disappearances, mass torture and sexual violence, mostly, but not exclusively, by the Indian security services, and that “none of these cases have been prosecuted in civilian courts.”
Mir, who has lived in Belgium for 17 years but still closely follows events in his homeland, said, “The atrocities are being carried out largely by the occupying Indian forces which number some 700,000 in Kashmir. Another 21,000 were sent there this week alone.
“The EU is well placed to do more to help bring the two sides together to the negotiating table. At present, it seems to lack the political will to get involved.”
On Kashmir’s ongoing fight for self-determination, he said, “If Scotland and Catalonia can have referenda on these issues why not Kashmir? After all, this was promised by a UN security council resolution as long ago as 1948.”
Since 1989 there has been an armed revolt in Kashmir, a Muslim-majority region with a population of 1.3m, against rule by India.
High unemployment and complaints of heavy-handed tactics by security forces battling street protesters and fighting insurgents have, as now, aggravated the problem.
The Kashmir dispute dates from 1947. The partition of the Indian sub-continent along religious lines led to the formation of India and Pakistan.
Mir said many people in the territory do not want it to be governed by India, preferring independence instead.
The population of the Indian-administered state of Jammu and Kashmir is more than 60% Muslim, making it the only state within India where Muslims are in the majority.
India and Pakistan did indeed agree a ceasefire in 2003 after years of bloodshed along the de facto border (formally known as the Line of Control).
Pakistan later promised to stop funding insurgents in the territory while India offered them an amnesty if they renounced militancy.
Then, in 2014, a new Indian government came to power promising a tough line on Pakistan.
Mir told Brussels based reporters, “We would like the EU,possibly parliament, to send a fact finding mission to the occupied parts of Kashmir in order for them to see what exactly is happening there. At present, the message we are trying to convey is just not getting out.”
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