Nehru should not have taken Kashmir issue to the UN, says Sitharaman in Rajya Sabha

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Wednesday accused the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of internationalising the Kashmir issue by taking it to the United Nations. She targeted the Congress on the issue while replying to a discussion on the Budget (2022-23) for the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in Rajya Sabha.

“It is an issue which should not have gone to a global forum. It is essentially an Indian issue. We could have handled it. We are handling it, and we are showing the difference now,” she said.

In response, Congress MP Anand Sharma said: “I would like to set the record straight. If the matter was taken to the UN Security Council, the issue was whether there would be a cessation of the military conflict or not. India did not accept the plebiscite.”

“The UN Observers’ Office was never given that sanctity. India conducted elections. There were elected governments in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Not only that, we fought wars and we made it very clear repeatedly, and this has been India’s consistent position, prior to 2014, that Jammu-Kashmir and Ladakh are an integral part of the sovereign state of India,” he added.

Sitharaman also said the terror activities in J&K have declined by 61% since the abrogation of Article 370. “In 2021, the kind of figures we have achieved, I want to show that there has been an overall decline in activities that disturbed peace. There has been a 33 per cent drop in infiltration attempts (51 in 2020 versus 34 in 2021), 90 per cent decrease in ceasefire violations (937 in 2020 versus 98 in 2021). Terror-related incidents came down from 244 in 2020 to 229 in 2021. There was 80 per cent decline in abductions by terrorists (from 10 in 2020 to two in 2021). The casualties involving police and security personnel saw a slide of 33 per cent (from 63 in 2020 to 42 in 2021). So, activities which have troubled Jammu and Kashmir for a very long time are on a decline,” she said.

She said the people of Union Territory were enjoying benefits of about 890 Central laws that have become applicable in J&K since the abrogation of Article 370. “As many as 250 state laws were repealed and 130 were modified. As we are discussing this, a delegation from the Gulf Cooperation Countries is exploring investment propositions in J&K. So, activities for bringing investment, creating jobs and also for providing political representation are going on,” she added.

The minister also rebutted the Opposition’s charge that the BJP, too, shared the responsibility for the failure to check the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990 as it was supporting the then V P Singh-led government at the Centre.

She pointed out that terror killings were being carried out in Kashmir before 1990 when the National Conference was in power in J-K in alliance with the Congress and recalled the then governor Jagmohan’s warning about dark clouds of terror overpowering the Valley.

She listed “seven major events” or killings of Hindus by terrorists in 1989 along with the related FIR numbers. “I just want to put the facts on record. The National Conference government with the support of the Indian National Congress was in power in J&K from November 1986 to January 18, 1990. And Governor Jagmohan reached J&K (on January 20, 1990) after the resignation of the then Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah…January 20, 1990, is when the Governor reached Srinagar,” she said.

When the Leader of Opposition in the House, Mallikarjun Kharge, asked her to focus on the budget, Sitharaman said “just like the entire conversation focused on The Kashmir Files (the movie) and not on the budget”, adding she had right to reply on all issues being raised by the Opposition.

The House later returned relevant Bills, completing the process of passage of the Jammu and Kashmir Budget that Lok Sabha had approved on March 14.

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