Labour changes stance, says won’t interfere in Kashmir, other Indian affairs as it starts to repair ties – Times of India


LONDON: Labour leader Keir Starmer has declared a significant change in the stance of his party as he begins to repair relations with India and British Indians, saying it will not meddle in Kashmir or in any of India’s constitutional affairs.
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had followed the ideology of the far-left of his party and was seen by the Indian diaspora as having pandered to the British Pakistani community. Some Labour MPs had joined violent protests outside the Indian high commission in London last year and delegates at the Labour Conference had unanimously passed a motion calling for the people of Jammu and Kashmir to be granted the right to self-determination and slamming what they termed “human rights violations” and a “major humanitarian crisis” in J&K.
Starmer, who took over from Corbyn on April 4, on Thursday declared: “Any constitutional issues in India are a matter for the Indian Parliament, and Kashmir is a bilateral issue for India and Pakistan to resolve peacefully.”
He said he would ensure Labour did not use the dispute on the subcontinent to “divide our communities in the UK” and that a Labour government under his leadership would build “even stronger links with India, like we saw under previous Labour governments”, and cooperate on the global stage on issues such as climate change. He added he looked forward to meeting the Indian high commissioner to the UK.
The current envoy, Ruchi Ghanashyam, retired on Thursday, though she will stay in the UK until flights resume. “The meeting with Keir was set up but now we have no high commissioner for some time,” an Indian diplomat said.
Starmer also pledged to work closely with Labour Friends of India to encourage more people from an Indian background to stand for elected positions in government.
On Thursday he held teleconference calls with the Hindu Council UK (HCUK) and Hindu Forum Britain (HFB) after coming under fire for not inviting Hindu representatives to the launch of Labour’s review into the impact of Covid-19 on ethnic minorities.
Rajnish Kashyap, general secretary at HCUK, told TOI: “The meeting went very well. He wants to rebuild relations between the Labour Party and the Hindu community. We will be part of their review into Covid impact on BAME going forward.”
In her call, Trupti Patel, president of HFB, reminded Starmer that “some Labour politicians took an active part” in the violent Independence Day protests outside the Indian high commission last year and “voiced their views on Kashmir that were a detriment to community cohesion in the UK”.
“He accepted that an apology was due to the community,” Patel said. She raised concerns over Labour’s controversial Kashmir motion which required the Labour leadership to escalate the Jammu and Kashmir issue to the United Nations Human Rights Council as well as “open Hinduphobia” amongst some party members making British Hindus “objects of hate.”
Starmer pledged he would deal with any instance of Hinduphobia within the party “robustly”.


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