The British government is monitoring the trial of Kashmiri separatist leader Yasin Malik very closely, UK Foreign Office minister Tariq Ahmad told the House of Lords on Tuesday.
Lord Ahmad, however, pointed out that Malik, chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), was charged under Indian law and therefore part of an independent judicial process.
The minister, who is in-charge of South Asia and the Commonwealth in the Foreign Office, was responding to questions in the Upper House of the UK Parliament on a range of issues when he was asked about the trial of Malik by Pakistani-origin Liberal Democrat peer, Lord Qurban Hussain, under the heading of “Human Rights Situation in Indian-administered Kashmir”.
“On the specific issue of the trial of Yasin Malik, we are monitoring the trial very closely,” Lord Ahmad said.
“We do note he has been charged under Indian law. Therefore, I am sure the noble lord appreciates it, we cannot intervene in the independent judicial process of India directly. However, in all our engagements we urge all countries to always respect and uphold their own international commitments regarding the treatment of any detainees,” he said.
Describing Malik as a “prominent Kashmiri leader, who has a huge following in the UK as well”, Hussain claimed that Kashmiris suspect the Indian government “wants to get rid of him too”.
Indian-origin peer Lord Indrajit Singh followed up by saying that the UK’s response to human rights issues in India should not be muted because India is a member of the Commonwealth.
Lord Ahmad referred to his own Indian and Pakistani heritage to highlight that he raises all human rights issues of concern directly in a “constructive way” with the governments of both India and Pakistan.
Another Indian-origin peer, Lord Rami Ranger, intervened to raise the matter of persecution of minorities in Pakistan, pointing to the recent murder of two Sikh traders in Peshawar because of their religion.
“Who is supplying arms to the terrorists in Kashmir, who is training them and who is encouraging them to create disruption in a paradise,” Ranger questioned.
The minister reiterated the UK government’s long-standing stance of India and Pakistan working on a resolution to the conflict in the region through talks.
“On Kashmir, it is important for both countries to move forward mutually and agree that there is a bright future for both countries who share so much in terms of culture and language, and one hopes a common shared future in terms of shared prosperity for the wider region,” said Ahmad.
In response to another query, he confirmed that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson did “engage on a broad range of issues, including those of human rights” during his visit to India last month.