‘Canada has not changed its stand on Kashmir’

By Gurmukh Singh,IANS,

Toronto : Canada Tuesday reiterated that it has not changed it position on Kashmir.

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The clarification came after a pro-Pakistan Kashmiri group here wrote a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently alleging human rights violations by India in the Kashmir valley.

Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon, who had replied to the letter last week, told parliament Tuesday that Canada has not deviated from it long-held position on the Kashmir issue.

“Canada’s position on Kashmir has not changed. Canada has not deviated from its approach that supports efforts by both India and Pakistan to resolve Kashmir and other issues through the composite dialogue process,” the foreign minister said.

He said, “We want to see the Kashmir issue resolved through peaceful means and I was today in the position to be able to reiterate that with the High Commission for India to Canada.”

Kevin Sorenson, an MP for the ruling Conservative party, had raised the issue, saying that “recent reports have stated that Canada has changed its position regarding the disputed Kashmir region.”

The MP wanted the foreign minister to clarify whether Canada’s position “on this very important and sensitive issue” has really changed.

Sources told IANS that the foreign minister’s reply to the letter by Mushtaq A. Jeelani, executive director of Peace and Justice Forum (PJF), about alleged human rights violations by India in Jammu and Kashmir was “distorted” to convey the impression that Canada has changed its position on Kashmir.

Some Pakistani media outlets carried the Canadian foreign minister’s reply to the letter in which he is quoted as saying, “The Government of Canada takes the issue of a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Kashmir very seriously and continues to encourage the governments of India and Pakistan to move forward with the ongoing composite dialogue process, focussed upon the resolution of key issues, including Jammu and Kashmir.

“Canada also engages in dialogue with like-minded partners to promote sustainable peace in South Asia, including with the members of the G8.

“Your [PJF’s] letter also addresses reports of egregious violations of human rights in Kashmir. Through the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi, Canada has established an ongoing dialogue with the Government of India on human rights issues.

“Canada regularly presses India to ensure that human rights, including the rights of Kashmiris, are respected…”

In the end, the foreign minister is quoted as assuring the group, “please be assured that we will continue to engage with the Government of India in this regard.”