Interview with Emma Nicholson Print
Written by M. Maroof Khan   
Friday, 15 February 2008 00:00

VOK: Your report on Kashmir stirred quite a controversy, what do have to say about it?

Emma Nichalson: My Draft Report, entitled 'Kashmir, Present Situation and Future Prospects' indeed caused controversy.  The topic was chosen by the senior committee of the European Parliament, the Committee for Foreign Affairs, in the full knowledge that it would be bound to do so. The European Parliament does not duck challenging subjects in any field, and the situation in all parts of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir falls well within the parameters of a necessary but politically controversial issue.  The choice of subject was further complicated by the fact that the European Union has neither mandate nor status to empower us to act or even to investigate the matter.  It was essential to approach the topic as Rapporteur with the utmost sensitivity while placing principles of the European Parliament as the top priority, namely our standards of human rights, and the core fundamental freedoms, democracy and the rule of law, and then to weigh those up against the situation of the Kashmiri people. Then to assess how, if at all, the European Parliament could be of help

VOK: What is the follow up of the report? Would it result in some policy decisions by European Parliament about Kashmir?

Emma Nichalson: The first Report went slowly through the appropriate Parliamentary stages, turning into a Final Report and then becoming a Final Resolution which was passed by plenary in May this year by a huge vote in favour and a tiny vote against plus a few abstentions. Draft Reports have a strict limit on word count; I sought and obtained a doubling of size but there is no restriction on further report stages, and I was able to supplement and enhance my own Draft through the amending process and work with other, like-minded colleagues to do the same. The concept in the Draft Report and most of the phraseology has been retained with some aspects strengthened at the suggestion of different colleagues.  The section on terrorism is a good example of the strengthening process. It is significantly larger than I originally drafted.  Other parts of the Draft Report were further clarified to make the meaning more obvious.  For example, the Draft Report requested Parliament to take into account all Jammu and Kashmir related UN Resolutions. This was deemed insufficient by some colleagues and so at their request the Final Report has in appendix a full listing of the UN Resolutions.  The final outcome was the same as the single clause in the Draft Report but colleagues were able to check for themselves how many resolutions and on what date the UN passed between 1947 and 1971, when UN resolutions on Kashmir ceased.

VOK: Do you foresee a long lasting peace in Kashmir in coming times?

Emma Nichalson: I do not yet foresee peace in all four parts of the former princely state.  Peace in Jammu and Kashmir is, I believe, coming considerably closer and will be affected before long. Peace in AJK is not yet on the horizon since the whole world of Pakistan is highly turbulent and AJK contains, as the European Parliament declared, at least one terrorist training camp along her side of the line of control. Peace in Gilgit and Baltistan is not on offer and has not been so for 60 years as these parts of the former princely state have been under military control for all of that time.  That is not peace, and until the people have their rights both recognised and implemented by the Pakistani government, they can have no peace. Is there peace in the portion ceded to China by Pakistan in 1971? we cannot tell, but I was delighted to received a visit and a formal letter from the Chinese government on Parliament's resolution on Kashmir and I look forward to a continuing dialogue with Chinese authorities. The Resolution is now European Parliament policy and permanently influences the whole of European Union policy on Kashmir in consequence. The Draft Report thus emerged as the largest and one of the most powerful resolutions the European Parliament has ever passed and it will have profound, long-term and continuing impact.

VOK: Do you think semi autonomous status or Joint control of Kashmir by both Pakistan and India could be one of the options on the table?

Emma Nichalson: The European Union is not part of the official dialogue between the governments of Pakistan and India and only those sovereign states can answer your question as it is posed.

VOK: Is there a prospect of Europe playing a role in future peace initiatives about Kashmir?

Emma Nichalson: The European Union can only take up a mediatory role if and when both sides of a dispute invite us to do so, and if we choose to accept.  We have no such role with regard to Kashmir at present. We value highly and work through our bi-lateral partnerships with India and Pakistan.  Several of our EU member states, particularly the UK, have large concentrations of people of Kashmir origin who are highly valued members of our communities, but that does not empower the European Union to intervene.

VOK: How do you see the present set up of governance in Pakistani part of Kashmir?

Emma Nichalson: Governance in the two Pakistan-administered parts of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is significantly and seriously lacking in most, if not all, important European Parliament respects.  In Gilgit and Baltistan, the democratic and human rights deficit is near-total; in AJK, despite some serious window dressing, the situation is not much better.  The UN and international community have a large task on their hands in assisting Pakistan to combat the acute, wide ranging of deep terrorism that has infected large parts of the country. At the same time we must encourage the government to bring forward a push for democracy throughout the nation. This will mean profound changes to the constitution of Pakistan, abolition of the laws on blasphemy and on woman's, for example. Pakistan has a Sharia law based constitution and as the European Court on Human Rights (ECHR) in February 2003 has decided in the groundbreaking case on Turkey , Sharia law is incompatible with democracy. 

VOK: You have developed a personal repot about Kashmir in subcontinent, especially amongst Kashmiri people, do you have any program to follow up on your initiatives?

Emma Nichalson: I am fully committed to the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir wherever they may be.  It was an honour to serve as the European Parliament's Rapporteur for the people of Kashmir and I am considering ways in which I can continue to help them.

VOK: If security and geo political situation remains sensitive in Kashmir do you think it would affect NATO presence in Afghanistan ?

Emma Nichalson:
I foresee that
NATO will be active in Afghanistan for a very long time to come. That situation is exacerbated by terrorist training taking place in AJK aimed at supporting the same armed Jihad as in  Afghanistan.

VOK: Do you think Europe as a political entity has developed to the extant that it would be able to take timely action in situations like Bosnia Herzegovina?

Emma Nichalson: Europe as a political entity is not yet fully developed; it remains in a state of continuing growth.  We anticipate a future EU membership of all South Eastern Europe , and member states from north and east.

VOK: US has so much in common with Europe in international political scene, do you think US has a role to play in Europe as in case of Bosnia Herzegovina?

Emma Nichalson: The US and Europe share a common value and permanent commitment to democracy and the rule of law, which is the baseline of the transatlantic alliance between the EU and the USA.  I foresee an even greater closeness between the second and third largest democracies in the world (India is in first place) in the future despite the inevitable trade disputes which are a permanent feature of free-market economies.

VOK: Do you think Iranian nuclear issue can be solved through European initiatives?

Emma Nichalson: I hope and believe that the Iranian nuclear issue can be solved by diplomatic solutions, as the Iranians are essentially a peaceful people and an ancient civilization linked historically to West and East.

VOK: Instead of Grants and aid from European countries don't you think removal of certain trade barriers could help bring a socio economic change in this part of the world?

Emma Nichalson: The European Parliament Resolution on Kashmir recommended that the strengthening of trade and therefore the reduction of trade barriers, but we also proposed more aid.  In the long run economic revival must be the answer for the permanent well-being of the people.

VOK: There is a deference of priorities before different European countries for sustainable development in third world countries. Do you think a uniform approach in this regard would bring ore sustainable results?

Emma Nichalson: I strongly and sincerely believe that conquering poverty through sustained development should be the goal for all of us that have the good of others at heart.  This is my personal priority of priorities, and one on which I know a number of highly valuable people who have a lot to offer.  We need a whole series of conferences on this one!  There are solutions but they are being overlooked

VOK: There has been considerable aid flow before and after Earthquake of 8th October, but ironically there is little on ground, don't you think there should have been more transparency and accountability by the donors?

Emma Nichalson: I agree fully with your point that the prolific aid for the earthquake victims, donated magnificently by governments and individuals globally, has not reached anything like the number of beneficiaries it could and should and could have done in Pakistan.  It is a tragedy. I raised the point strongly in my draft report, and the paid militants lobbied successfully to get it out. This was one of their very few "triumphs", while the grim truth as stated in the original text is shown by the gravity of the sufferings of the people of AJK, and Gilgit and Baltistan. There was a small, heavily lobbying cluster of paid militants who sought to destroy the report at all stages; including, somewhat surprisingly the unwritten draft report, a ghost that did not exist. The paid militants have been working for a long time on a group of UK MEPs who feel vulnerable in domestic politics to their local Muslim vote. They attacked continuously, trying to swing the report to favour their local lobbies. These colleagues were unsuccessful, and a careful scrutiny of Draft, Final, and Final Resolution shows up their failure; the three documents are scrupulously similar in every message contained therein. The global, ultimately unsuccessful campaign against the whole Report and Final Resolution shows up the merciless and unscrupulous ways in which those hungry for power will trample on the rights of the powerless. The task of the European Parliament rapporteur, and of all democratic parliaments everywhere, is to ensure that they do not succeed, so that the rights of all prevail.

Last Updated on Friday, 17 September 2010 18:17