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Mike Gapes MP
Member of Parliament for Ilford South
A Local Man with a National and International Voice
My Statement on the Ongoing Situation in Kashmir
August 9, 2019
The recent events in Kashmir are of great concern. They pose a risk of further inflaming the already tense relationship between two nuclear armed neighbouring states and also increasing tensions between Hindu and Muslim communities in India and Pakistan and in the global diaspora. The origins of the Kashmir dispute go back to the original decision by the Attlee Government to partition India and establish two countries, India and Pakistan in 1947. Jammu and Kashmir was a former independent Dogra Kingdom. In 1947 the ruler of the princely majority Muslim state opted to join the secular Union of India, rather than new Muslim state of Pakistan. Since then, and following several wars between India and Pakistan, Kashmir has been divided by a Line of Control separating Pakistani administered Kashmir, Azad Kashmir, and Indian administered Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. There is also a part of Kashmir which was ceded to China by Pakistan. Following the first war between India and Pakistan the United Nations adopted resolutions upholding Kashmir’s right to self determination. Both the governments of India and Pakistan have opposed the idea of an independent Kashmir. India also argues that the UN resolutions were superseded by the bilateral 1972 Simla agreement which brought to an end the third India – Pakistan war which had been fought over the independence of Bangladesh, There has been serious conflict and social and political violence since 1989 when many Pandit Hindu communities were forced from their homes and serious damage was done to the once vibrant tourist industry in Srinagar and the Valley. However an elected government was restored in 1996 and despite difficulties there had been improvements to the security situation. There has been an upsurge in protest and violence in Indian-administered Kashmir since July 2016. The trigger was the killing of Burhan Wani, the leader of the armed group Hizbul Mujahedin by the security forces in that month. There have been numerous clashes between the Indian and Pakistani military across the Line of Control. Incursions by armed terrorist groups into Indian-administered Kashmir from Pakistan-administered Kashmir have also continued. In February 2019, more than 40 Indian soldiers were killed in an attack in Pulwama. The disintegration of the broad based and ostensibly secular Congress as India’s premier party, at both national and state level over the last thirty years, and its more recent replacement by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has significantly changed the situation nationally and in Kashmir. The BJP’s policies on Jammu and Kashmir have been perceived by many as strident and chauvinist, based on Hindutva, the concept of a Hindu nation. The BJP had long called for abolition of the special provisions for Jammu and Kashmir which had been in existence since 1949 under Article 370 of the Indian constitution. It allows Jammu and Kashmir to have its own constitution, a separate flag and independence over all matters except foreign affairs, defence and communications. Although this autonomy has been greatly eroded in practice over recent decades. The BJP criticised previous Congress governments for what it regarded as a form of Muslim appeasement. But until recently it had adopted a more pragmatic approach in office compared to that it had espoused in opposition. However following the recent national elections, which it won decisively, the Bharatiya Janata Party has changed its approach. During the campaign Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had promised to Revoke Article 370. Except for one clause to which the Government does not object, this happened by presidential order on 5 August. A Bill has also been rapidly approved by both Houses of Parliament splitting the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two new Federal Union territories. One will be called Jammu and Kashmir, which will have a state legislature. The other is Ladakh, which will be ruled directly from New Delhi. The revocation of Article 370 extends to a key provision added under it, known as Article 35A. This gives special privileges to permanent residents, including state government jobs and the exclusive right to own property in Jammu and Kashmir. It is intended to protect the state’s distinct demographic character as the only Muslim-majority state in India. It has long been controversial with many in India including the BJP, viewing it as discriminatory against non-Muslims and women and harming development. It was introduced in its current form in 1954 but a similar law was in place prior to Indian independence in 1947. Thousands of additional soldiers were sent to Jammu and Kashmir prior to the 5 August announcement. A curfew is still in force. At least two senior Kashmir opposition politicians and former Chief Ministers, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, have been detained and there is a communications ‘lockdown’. It is hard to find out what is happening on the ground. The Indian Supreme Court will very likely be asked to rule on the constitutionality of the BJP-led government’s latest actions. But this could take some time. Many critics of revocation regard it as breaching the contract upon which the Maharaja of Kashmir decided to join India in 1947. Some lawyers think that this means there could be an international law dimension too. The reaction to these events in Pakistan has been robust. The foreign ministry said India is in breach of UN resolutions and Prime Minister Imran Khan said “…incidents like Pulwama are bound to happen again… I can already predict this will happen. They will attempt to place the blame on us again. They may strike us again, and we will strike back.” On 7 August, Pakistan expelled India’s High Commissioner and recalled its own top diplomat from New Delhi. It also announced the suspension of bilateral trade. China has said it supports Pakistan’s stance, highlighting its opposition to the establishment of Ladakh as a separate territory ruled from New Delhi. China currently controls territory which India claims as an extension of Ladakh. It has been the longstanding view of the United Kingdom and other Western governments, since the 1950s, not to get involved in discussions of sovereignty and international law, but simply to urge all parties to resolve the Kashmir dispute peacefully. There is serious international anxiety that the revocation of Article 370 could trigger another full-blown conflict between India and Pakistan, both of which are nuclear weapon states. The US has called on all parties to “maintain peace and stability along the line of control”. The UN Secretary-General has called for restraint. In 2018 the UN called for the establishment of an international commission of inquiry into human rights abuses since 2016 on both sides of the Line of Control. India rejected this call. In view of the importance of the relations between the United Kingdom and both these significant Commonwealth countries it is vital that the UK Government uses its good relations and contacts to urge both India and Pakistan to act responsibly and deescalate tensions. The government should also be active with international partners in the European union, the Commonwealth and the United Nations, to seek to reduce tensions and the danger of conflict in the region. The government must also act to ensure that events in Kashmir do not cause tensions within diaspora communities in this country. It must act strongly against any extremist groups which seek to exploit these events....
Mike Gapes Ilford Recorder Column – August 2019
August 9, 2019
I Will Continue to Fight to Stay in the EU In our Parliamentary democracy we often change Prime Minister without a General Election. In 1976 Harold Wilson retired. Labour MPs elected James Callaghan. In 1990 Margaret Thatcher was forced out. Conservative MPs elected John Major. In 2007 Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair stood down and was replaced by Gordon Brown. In 2016 Conservative David Cameron ran away after losing his EU referendum gamble. Theresa May took over. Boris Johnson already had support of most Conservative MPs before his emphatic victory over Jeremy Hunt amongst individual party members. But the Parliamentary arithmetic has not changed. Johnson is a Prime Minister without a majority, dependent, like Theresa May, on ten Northern Irish Democratic Unionist votes. He may be determined to leave the European Union on 31 October, with or without an agreement, and regardless of the huge economic and political damage to our country. But there is no majority in Parliament to crash out with No Deal. The House of Commons is determined to assert control and stop Johnson pursuing his No Deal Brexit. His hard right government is focused entirely on winning back Tory support lost to the Brexit Party. His early bounce in the opinion polls is not yet enough. It will be a huge gamble for him to risk everything on a General Election. As long as I am in Parliament, I will continue to vote in the national interest and support the wishes and interests of my constituents to Stop Brexit and Remain in the European Union. ...
My Comments on the Ongoing Situation in Hong Kong
August 7, 2019
In light of the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, I would like to highlight my comments in Parliament on the situation from June. I urge the government to make clear to China that they must respect the One Country, Two Systems policy which has ensured the continued peace and prosperity of Hong Kong....
My Questions Regarding King George Hospital’s A&E
July 24, 2019
I asked the following questions in Parliament on July 23 regarding the continuance of A&E services at King George Hospital. In both cases the government confirmed that the A&E at KGH will remain open and that further efforts will be made to help the hospital help with social care. 1.Whether his Department’s decision of October 2011 to close the A&E department at King George Hospital, Ilford, has been rescinded; and if he will make a statement on future services at that hospital. 2. I thank the Minister for that reply. I hope that it will stop some of the more lurid scaremongering and campaigning, which is unfortunately diverting people in my constituency from looking at the most important issue: how we use the King George Hospital site in future. Will he confirm that steps are being taken to integrate North East London NHS Foundation Trust and King George Hospital services to deal with social care and other matters?...
My Comments on British Ambassador to the United States Sir Kim Darroch
July 9, 2019
There has been some speculation about how long Kim Darroch will remain in his post. Given his excellent record, and the fact that he is clearly talking truth, regardless of the possible implications for the relationships with the country concerned, would not the best answer to President Trump and some in this House be for the Minister to recommend that Sir Kim Darroch’s term be extended beyond the end of this year, so that he can continue to comment on the uniquely dysfunctional and inept Trump presidency?...
Mike Gapes Article for The Times – July 2019
July 9, 2019
Our country has been seriously damaged by the narrow result of the 2016 referendum. The bitter Brexit division and political impasse of the last three years have not only prevented proper attention to pressing domestic issues like the social care crisis. It has also damaged the standing and influence of the disunited United Kingdom on the global stage. Whatever the final outcome of this tragedy – leaving the EU with or without a deal, or remaining a member state of the European Union through revocation and a People’s Vote – the UK’s reputation has taken a hit. Even if there is a withdrawal deal, Brexit and its aftermath will shape the international standing and role of our country for decades to come. The current institutional structures of global governance, including the United Nations (UN), were established by the allied powers in the aftermath of the Second World War. The European Coal and Steel Community was a peace project designed to ensure France and Germany never went to war again. It evolved into the European Community of six, which then became nine, and is now the European Union (EU) of 28. The 500-million-strong bloc is still a model of democratic governance, peaceful resolution of disputes and the rule of law. But the EU now faces the twin threats of Brexit and assertive nationalist populism – both from far right groups within and from the malign Putin regime in Russia without. The rise of new economic powers in Asia, particularly China, is leading to a shift in the balance of global power. So far, the Chinese government has not challenged the international rules-based system. Indeed, it has seen the benefits of being a member of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and a permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC). But in time there will be increasing pressure on European states – including the UK – to accept reforms to global institutions, not least the IMF and the UN, that would better reflect the global distribution of power in the 21st century. As one of the five permanent UNSC members, the UK wields significant influence in global affairs. Within the UN system, Britain already works extremely closely with France: while the UK has not used its veto alone since 1972, Britain and France together have had the weight to prevent UNSC resolutions that are not in European interests. Modern UK foreign policy goals have rarely been at odds with those of the rest of the EU and this has allowed Britain’s international influence and representation to be amplified. UK politicians took the lead in trying to stop the Balkan wars and in post war reconstruction. Paddy Ashdown, was High Representative in Bosnia. William Hague played a leading role in a common EU sanctions response to Russia’s invasion of Crimea. Cathy Ashton was EU lead negotiator with Iran and was also central to the deal between Kosovo and Serbia as High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy. EU membership helped the UK to achieve more in its foreign policy than it could have done alone. Post-referendum internal government divisions have increased UK disengagement and if we leave the EU, it will lead to a significant further loss of influence. It would also increase the importance of France to its European partners as the only EU state which is also a permanent UNSC member. Outside the EU, pressure to give up our permanent UNSC seat and veto would rise. We would no longer be able to rely on EU member state solidarity in other UN matters. Natural disasters, climate change, and repressive regimes, civil wars and conflicts have all caused huge movements of displaced people globally in recent years, from countries including Afghanistan, Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, Iraq, Syria and Sri Lanka. This movement of people will increase as we experience more extreme climate events. Conflicts and proxy wars in the Islamic world, and the violence and challenge presented by Da’esh and other groups, could last decades. The disastrous consequences of our failure to intervene to stop the civil war in Syria has led to 500,000 deaths, most killed by the Assad regime, and 11 million displaced people. There is no end in sight to the civil war in Yemen, or to the Palestine/Israel conflict which will continue to be used by Islamist radicals to inflame passions worldwide. The nationalist autocratic Putin regime seeks to reverse Russian loss of power and influence, whether by political and military support for Assad in Syria, by overt use of military annexation of territory in Georgia, and Ukraine; by asymmetric warfare against the Baltic states; by use of its RT propaganda channel; and by financing anti-EU populist parties. Growing assertiveness by Communist China has been accompanied by a heightened tension over unresolved territorial disputes with Japan, the Philippines and other states, and concern about the future of Hong Kong and Taiwan. There is also uncertainty about the long term commitment and behaviour of the US, our most powerful ally and NATO partner. A further term for the unpredictable nationalist Trump Presidency would be a major challenge for the future of the rules-based international order, particularly for NATO and Europe. Even a Democrat presidency could be constrained by the growing mood of protectionism and isolationism in Congress. The UK has an interest in defending global institutions and in working co-operatively with other likeminded countries in search of global solutions to these challenges. This is no time to leave the EU. On the contrary the UK should increase our diplomatic efforts and resources and engagement with our partners and neighbours to achieve our common goals....
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