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Thursday, 3 January, 2002, 12:54 GMT
UK Asian leaders urge calm over Kashmir
Demonstrators burning Pakistani flag
There are fears tension could spread to the UK
by BBC News Online's Community Affairs Reporter Cindi John

Asians in the UK are being urged to remain calm in spite of rising tension between India and Pakistan over the disputed Kashmir region.

Jaswant Singh Heera, of Birmingham's Council of Sikh Gurdwaras, said people of Indian and Pakistani origin should not be influenced by the sub-continent's problems.

Mr Heera said: "We had a meeting with Pakistani and Muslim community leaders and their feelings are the same as mine - that in this country we should not get affected by Indian or Pakistani politics."

He said many of those in Birmingham's Muslim community had roots in Kashmir but relations between them and the Indian community remained good.

Mohammed Ajeeb
Mohammed Ajeeb said Afghanistan was of more concern

But he warned the situation could be sparked off by a few "excitable youngsters".

A leading member of Bradford's Pakistani community, Mohammed Ajeeb, said Asians there were probably more concerned about the situation in Afghanistan.

But Mr Ajeeb, a former mayor of the West Yorkshire city, believed British prime minister Tony Blair - due to visit both Pakistan and India - might be able to mediate effectively.

"His very prominent position could be useful in restraining both countries and persuading them to negotiate on some of the issues they feel strongly about," Mr Ajeeb said.

'Repercussions'

Developments in India and Pakistan are also being watched with interest in Leicester, a city with large Hindu and Muslim communities.

Kashmir map
Many of the UK's Asians have roots in the disputed Kashmir region

Tilak Puri of the Geeta Bhavan Hindu society said so far events in the sub-continent had not affected relations in Leicester but added: "Tomorrow is anybody's guess".

Mr Puri did not believe Tony Blair's visit to the region could make a difference in the present circumstances.

"Until there is a substantial proof that Pakistan is doing something concrete to suppress their terrorist activities inside Pakistan I doubt Tony Blair can help.," Mr Puri said.

But a spokesman for Leicester's Federation of Muslim Organisations, Manzoor Moghal, believed Mr Blair could help because of Britain's long relationship with both countries.

Manzoor Moghal
Manzoor Moghal warned of "knock-on effect"

Mr Moghal said so far relations in Leicester had not suffered because of the tension in the subcontinent.

But he warned that if the situation worsened it was bound to have a knock-on effect on the Pakistani and Indian communities in the UK.

"They have deep emotional attachments there and any upheaval is bound to have repercussions here and these could be quite detrimental in terms of community relations," Mr Moghal said.

See also:

03 Jan 02 | South Asia
'War unnecessary,' says Indian PM
03 Jan 02 | South Asia
Thousands flee rivals' war moves
03 Jan 02 | South Asia
Musharraf seeks China's backing
03 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Blair to start 'peace trip'
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