Triggering a fresh controversy, Pakistan again raised the Kashmir issue by refusing to invite the Jammu and Kashmir assembly speaker to a Commonwealth Parliamentary Association conference it is hoisting on the ground that the state is disputed territory, leading to India threatening to skip the meet and demanding the venue be shifted to some other country.
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said on Friday that India will boycott the September 30-October 8 conference if Jammu and Kashmir Speaker Kavinder Gupta is not invited.
She said Pakistan has invited the speakers of the other state assemblies for the nine-day conference but not the Jammu and Kashmir assembly speaker.
Addressing media persons, she said that at a meeting of the presiding officers of all state legislatures held on Friday, a decision was taken to boycott the Islamabad meeting.
“We have taken the decision that if Jammu and Kashmir speaker is not invited, then India will not participate. Either change the venue or India will not attend,” Mahajan said.
Though Pakistan has chosen not to invite the Jammu and Kashmir speaker this time, in March 2007, during the 3rd Asia and India Regional CPA Conference which was held in Islamabad, the Jammu and Kashmir Branch was invited by the Pakistan CPA Branch and three delegates from the state had participated.
The ministry of external affairs said that the “unilateral decision of Pakistan in not inviting Jammu & Kashmir CPA Branch to the 61st CPA Conference violates the provisions of the CPA Constitution, a fact which has been recognized by both CPA Secretariat and the chairperson of its Executive Committee. It also goes against the Commonwealth’s guiding principles of promotion of international understanding, world peace and democratic governance”.
“It is well known that CPA is a membership organization which has constitutionally been bound for over a century now to invite all its member branches to the CPA Annual Conference so long as a branch is in good financial standing with the association,” it said.
Pakistan has over the past year been raising the Kashmir issue at international forum, and trying to push its agenda for a plebiscite in the state.
The issue comes ahead of the August 23-24 National Security Advisor-level talks to be held in New Delhi, between India’s Ajit Doval and Pakistan’s Sartaj Aziz.
The twin terror strikes, in Punjab’s Gurdaspur and in Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur, carried out by Pakistani militants has added to tension in bilateral ties.
Jammu and Kashmir Speaker Gupta said: “I want to thank them for the decision, Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India. Pakistan is a terrorist country; Australia and Canada have supported our move,” he said.
Gupta also said that “Pakistan should be declared a terrorist country”.
“The boycott is a big message to the world community,” he added.
Ministry of external affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that an emergency meeting of the president of the union chapter as well as the 31 India Chapters of the CPA India Region was held in which they called on the CPA executive committee chairperson (Bangladesh parliament Speaker Shirin Chaudhry) to use her good offices to immediately resolve the matter and ensure issue of invitation to the Jammu & Kashmir CPA Branch, failing which the India Chapters will boycott the event.
“They have also demanded that Pakistan should forfeit its right to host the Conference and the venue should be shifted to another country.”
A press release by the Lok Sabha Secretariat also said Mahajan and the other presiding officers of Indian legislatures had sought Chaudhury’s intervention to ensure the Jammu and Kashmir speaker is invited, otherwise India will stay away.
The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Renewing the commitment to pluralism and inclusive democracy in the Commonwealth’.
Parliamentary delegations from more than 175 legislatures of 53 countries of the Commonwealth are scheduled to attend the conference.
During their week-long stay in Islamabad, over 600 parliamentarians will discuss issues pertaining to legislative oversight, parliamentary strengthening, gender development, climate change and other issues of importance to the Commonwealth fraternity.