Thursday, January 22, 2009

David Miliband comes under fire over Kashmir

From , January 22, 2009

David Miliband was at the centre of a diplomatic row with India last night after officials and ministers protested about the Foreign Secretary’s words and body language on a visit to Delhi.

Indian officials told The Times that they were upset by his suggestion, made in a newspaper article and in private discussions, that the disputed region of Kashmir was the root cause of terrorist attacks such as that in Mumbai. In the article on Thursday last week, Mr 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 Mr Miliband’s 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.

The dispute threatens to overshadow the current visit by Lord Mandelson, with one senior Indian official publicly voicing his reluctance to appear at an event attended by the Business Secretary.

One Indian newspaper reported yesterday that Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister, had written to Gordon Brown to complain about Mr 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 didn’t 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.

Mr Mukherjee, who met Mr 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 Mr 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.

Tags: , , , ,

Post a Comment