Saturday, 18 January 2020

Swedish king speaks up for Kashmir

NEW DELHI: King Carl Gustaf of Sweden said in Mumbai that his country had been observing the situation in Jammu & Kashmir for years, and indicated that the mandate of the United Nations Military Observers Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), of which it was a part, was too constrained for Stockholm to take a closer look at the four-month-old crackdown on Kashmiris in the valley.

The king’s remarks came in response to media questions whether Sweden would mediate a solution to the situation that has set off tensions between India and Pakistan. The comments followed observations by Sweden’s foreign ministry on the eve of his visit, calling for the lifting of curfew in the state and the restoration of communications.

“We can say we have people from Sweden, trying to (be) as observers in these areas in Kashmir for many many years. In that sense, we are trying to be an observer if possible,” King Gustaf told a select group of journalists, implying that he would want to widen the lens to look at the situation within if India permitted.

The Swedish king and his wife are on a five-day visit to India. The royal couple met Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Governor BS Koshyari earlier in the day.

Asked if any offer for mediation by Sweden to resolve the Kashmir dispute was discussed when he met the Indian leadership in Delhi, he declined to answer, citing a policy of not commenting on political issues.

He termed his visit as “interesting” so far, and added that there is a lot of scope for India and Sweden to work together. King Carl Gustaf met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman and representatives of the industry in Delhi on Monday and Tuesday.

“We emphasise the importance of respect for human rights, that an escalation of the situation in Kashmir is avoided and that a long-term political solution to the situation must involve Kashmir’s inhabitants,” Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde told the Riksdag or the Swedish parliament last week. “Dialogue between India and Pakistan is crucial.”

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