‘Canada’s bureaucracy spoiling ties with India over Kashmir’

By Gurmukh Singh, IANS,

Toronto : Indian Canadian leaders have slammed Canadian Foreign Minister Lawrence Cannon for his recent statement about playing a role in the Kashmir dispute. They said Canada must recognize the recently held “free and fair” polls in Kashmir and say that it is an integral part of India.

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Alleging an institutionalized bias against India in the Canadian bureaucracy since the 1974 Pokhran nuclear tests, these leaders said the statement might have bene the handiwork of bureaucrats who are trying to undermine the “good work” by the political leadership to promote ties with India.

In his letter to Mushtaq Jeelani, executive director of pro-Kashmiri Peace and Justice Forum (PJF) who had recently written to the Canadian government about alleged human rights violations by India in Kashmir, Cannon had reportedly said: “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…”

Slamming the minister for his letter, Ashok Koul, president of the Indo-Canadian Kashmir Forum, said: “When even the UN and the EU consider Kashmir a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, how come Cannon wants to get involved in this dispute?”

Taking exception to the minister’s reported remarks in the letter that “Canada also engages in dialogue with like-minded partners to promote sustainable peace in South Asia…,” Koul asked, “Since when have a jihadist group and Canada become like-minded?”

He said just three years ago, the Canadian spy agency CSIS (Canadian Security and Intelligence Service) had closed down Jeelani’s previous organization called Kashmir-Canada Council (KCC).

Demanding that the minister’s letter be publicly released, Koul said: “Jeelani (who hails from Indian Kashmir) is working in tandem with Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) leader Farooq Siddiqui in Canada, and still the foreign minister calls him a like-minded partner.”

Ashok Kaput, political professor and foreign policy expert, said: “Just when free and fair elections have been completed in Kashmir, the foreign minister’s statement has only muddied the waters. He is squandering the goodwill Canada gained in India by backing the Indo-US nuclear deal.”

Kapur, who has written a number of books on India-Canada relations, said: “There is an institutionalized bias against India in Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs after the 1974 nuclear explosion. Bureaucrats must have put the statement in front of the minister and he would signed it.”

He sad, “They (Canadian bureaucrats) are playing the ‘spoiler role’ which is hampering Canada-India relations.”

Another Indian Canadian leader, who didn’t want to be named, said:”The foreign minister’s letter to Jileeni must be released, considering that his (Jeelani’s) previous organization was closed down by the spy agency, yet the minister wrote to him.”

He also demanded that “Canada must make it clear that it recognizes that Indian controlled Kashmir as Indian territory, and any disputes about it must be settled by India and the affected parties.

“Canada must also recognize that India held free and fair, democratic elections in Kashmir four months ago with about 60 percent turnout – higher than Canada’s in 2008. Anything short of this is unacceptable.”