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Mr President, Honourable Members [of the European Parliament],
The tensions in the region have increased following the announcement by the Indian Government on 5 August of the revocation of Article 370 that grants a partial autonomy to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. This step has been accompanied by restrictions of fundamental rights and freedoms.
The Indian Government has deployed a significant number of additional military and paramilitary troops in Kashmir and along the Line of Control. This action was presented by the Indian Government as a means to prevent violent protests. Pakistan has also deployed additional troops on its side of the Line of Control. On both sides, the issue of Kashmir resonates strongly with internal political dynamics.
While some of the restrictions are reportedly lifted, the situation has not returned to normalcy.
There have been arrests of political leaders, activists and human rights defenders.
The European Union has been following the situation closely since the early days of this escalation of tensions. In early August, High Representative Mogherini spoke on the phone with both her Pakistani and Indian counterparts. In both conversations, the High Representative underlined the importance of avoiding a further escalation and stressed that dialogue between India and Pakistan through diplomatic channels is crucial.
Our position on Kashmir remains unchanged: we encourage India and Pakistan to seek a peaceful and political solution, respectful of the interests of the Kashmiri population on both sides of the Line of Control. This remains the only way to solve a long-lasting dispute that for too long has caused instability and insecurity in the region.
We remain concerned about the situation on the ground, with its restrictions on fundamental freedoms. It is crucial that freedom of movement and means of communication are fully restored as well as access to all essential services.
The High Representative conveyed these concerns to the Indian Minister for External Affairs [Subrahmanyam] Jaishankar, during their meeting in Brussels on 30 August. The Minister debriefed the High Representative on the state of play and on the security situation. Ms Mogherini reiterated the call to avoid an escalation of tensions and stressed the importance of steps to restore the rights and freedoms of the population in Kashmir.
The EU has also raised the situation in Jammu and Kashmir at the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, in an “item 2” statement on 10 September. In the statement, we encourage the lifting of the remaining restrictions temporarily imposed and to maintain the rights and fundamental freedoms of the affected population.
We continue to urge both parties to engage in direct dialogue, with a view to a peaceful solution, in full respect of their international Human rights obligations.
In a moment of rising tensions in different regions around the world, no one could afford another escalation in Kashmir. Regional cooperation in South Asia is now more essential than ever, and we will continue to encourage India and Pakistan to resume dialogue and find a peaceful solution for their disputes.
Thank you very much for your attention.
Link to the opening remarks: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-177434
Mr President, Honourable Members, allow me to say that this exchange of views was very useful and very timely. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Honourable Members for their interventions, comments and suggestions.
The EU will continue to monitor closely the situation with our key focus being on de-escalating the situation involving two nuclear powers. We must make every effort needed to avoid an escalation of the conflict.
Link to the closing remarks: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-177436