Miliband comes under fire over Kashmir remarks

January 22nd, 2009 - 5:11 pm ICT by ANI  

Manmohan Singh

London, Jan.22 (ANI): British Foreign Secretary David Miliband continues to attract flak at home and from abroad for the way he sought to bulldoze the leadership in India into accepting that the root cause of terrorism in South Asia, was Indias refusal to sit down with Pakistan and solve the over six decade long Kashmir dispute.
Indian officials have told The Times that they were upset by his suggestion made in an article for The Guardian and in private discussions.
Miliband wrote: Resolution of the dispute over Kashmir would help deny extremists in the region one of their main calls to arms.
One senior Indian official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: The long and short of it is that he did manage to ruffle a few feathers. It was both the content of the message and the way it was delivered the body language.
India has long rejected international involvement in Kashmir, over which it has fought two of its three wars with Pakistan since independence from Britain in 1947.
Indian officials were also angered by Milibands assertion at a press conference in Delhi, and in private conversations, last week that there was no evidence that the Pakistani state directed the Mumbai terror attacks. One Indian newspaper reported yesterday that Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister, had written to his British counterpart Gordon Brown to complain about Miliband, though officials denied that.
Vishnu Prakash, the Foreign Ministry spokesman, said: We do not need unsolicited advice on internal issues in India like Kashmir.
Jairam Ramesh, the Minister of State for Commerce, said that he almost stood up Lord Mandelson at an event on Monday.
I didnt feel like going, he said, adding that he had called Pranab Mukherjee, the Indian Foreign Minister, on Sunday to ask whether he should attend and was told that he should go, but should make his point.
Mukherjee, who met Miliband last week, tried to play down the row yesterday when he spoke to reporters at a security conference.
When the Foreign Secretary of the UK visited us he shared his perceptions about the situations, and I equally told him and all the interlocutors that this is your perception, he said. We do not share this perception.
A senior British diplomat said that Miliband had not spoken out of line or diverged from British policy.
He added however that India, along with Israel, was a country where whatever a Foreign Secretary said; there was always a risk that it could upset domestic political sensitivities.
He was reported to have breached protocol and caused offence by addressing the elderly Mukherjee by his first name, despite the minister pointedly referring to his much younger counterpart as: “Your Excellency.”
Arundhati Ghose, India’’s former ambassador to the United Nations, said: “He was totally tactless. “It was so familiar that it is almost condescending.”
The Bharatiya Janata Party, (BJP) the main opposition, described the visit as a “diplomatic disaster””.
The Telegraph quoted Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague as saying: “It is clear that the Indian government is extremely unhappy about the visit of the Foreign Secretary.
“Good relations with India are very important to Britain, and must be handled with care and consistency. If David Miliband’’s comments caused a diplomatic storm in Delhi, then those relations will have been damaged by his visit,” he added.
Vishnu Prakash, spokesman for the Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi, added: “Mr. Miliband is entitled to his views, which are clearly his own and are evolving. We do not need unsolicited advice on the internal issues of India like Jammu and Kashmir.””
A Foreign Office spokesman said: “The UK and India enjoy a very strong strategic partnership which covers a very broad agenda. We are confident that the common interests we share and our strong relationship will continue.”” (ANI)

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