Toronto, July 11: A Canadian MP from prime minister Justin Trudeau’s ruling Liberal Party caucus is facing criticism over his use of the term “Azad Kashmir” to refer to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
Rob Oliphant, a member of the House of Commons, described visiting Pakistani leader Masood Khan as the “President of Azad Jammu & Kashmir” in a tweet, which immediately attracted brickbats.
Among those to counter it was Indo-Canadian entrepreneur Vijay Sappani, who tweeted back: “There is no country called ‘Azad Jammu & Kashmir’ Mr. @Rob_Oliphant , like there is no country called Quebec.”
The latter reference was to the Canadian province that has been plagued by a decades-long separatist movement.
Shuvaloy Majumdar, a senior fellow at Ottawa-based Macdonald-Laurier Institute, said, “The Liberal government and its caucus should stand clearly with and for a united India.”
Oliphant’s tweet came after a meeting with Khan, who he described as a “former senior diplomat” who “brings insight and compassion to a difficult situation in the region”. Oliphant later deleted his tweet and, in an emailed response to Hindustan Times, said, “I recognise that the more neutral term would be Pakistan Administered Kashmir. I have used that term in my Facebook post and will use it in the future.”
He explained his “normal practice is to use the name of the territory used by the people who live there and by those who invited me to have dinner with them” and that he understood “there are sensitivities related to Kashmir”.
Oliphant is co-chair of the Canada-Pakistan Friendship Association, though he is also close to the Indo-Canadian community.
Majumdar said this issue raised “profound questions” over Ottawa’s stand on a “united India”, one that was underscored by Trudeau during his visit to India in February. The problem, as Majumdar saw it, was that “too often, government officials equivocate on the question of Kashmir”. (Agencies)