UK's Labour Party Changed Its Stance On Kashmir, Here's When & Why

India’s relationship with the Labour Party has been strained as a result of previous remarks on the Kashmir issue.

In a historic victory, Labour captured 412 seats in the 650-member Parliament, ousting the Conservatives after 14 years in power. Keir Starmer, 61, took over the country as Prime Minister, with all eyes on his administration’s plans to strengthen strategic ties with India.London: In a predictable election, the United Kingdom returned Keir Starmer’s Labour Party to power by a landslide on Thursday, hoping to bring about change after 14 turbulent years of Conservative rule marked by economic stagnation, housing shortages, party infighting, and scandals. Labour won 412 seats in the 650-member Parliament, marking a historic victory.

Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party, is on track to succeed Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister of Britain, with election results pointing to a crushing defeat for the Conservatives.

India’s relationship with the Labour Party has been strained as a result of previous remarks about the Kashmir issue. Their stance has been in stark contrast to the British government’s position that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.

What was Jeremy Corbyn’s stance on India?

Notably, Jeremy Corbyn led the Labour Party, which suffered a historic defeat in the 2019 elections when Boris Johnson took over the Conservatives. Following the election, Corbyn was replaced as party leader by Starmer, and the two had an acrimonious falling out after Corbyn was suspended for his antisemitic stance within the party.

In 2019, the Labour Party passed an emergency motion calling for international observers to enter the disputed Kashmir region and demand the people’s right to self-determination. This decision came after India decided to revoke Article 370, which granted special status to the former state of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Ministry of External Affairs condemned the resolution as “uninformed and unfounded” and accused Corbyn of “pandering to vote against bank interests.” Over 100 British-Indian professional and community organisations condemned the resolution, accusing Labour of bringing an India-Pakistan issue into domestic UK politics.

“The emergency motion on Kashmir was passed as part of the democratic process of the Labour Party Conference. However, there is an acknowledgement that some of the language used within it may be misinterpreted as hostile to India and the Indian Diaspora,” Corbyn said, defending his position. His stance on Kashmir did not end well, as Labour suffered a crushing defeat in 2019.

Under Starmer’s leadership, the Labour Party has pledged to eliminate anti-India sentiments within its ranks and form a strong strategic alliance with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration. During a campaign stop at the Shree Swaminarayan Temple in Kingsbury, north London, last week, the newly-elected British Prime Minister reassured British Hindus that there is “absolutely no place for Hinduphobia in Britain.”

How did Starmer change Labour’s stance on Kashmir?

Starmer has been credited with bringing the party back to its core after the 2019 defeat and enforcing discipline among party members. On India, Starmer has recognized the political clout of the Indian community, which is one of the largest and fastest-growing ethnic groups in the UK and has thus altered Labour’s approach to Kashmir.

In his numerous interactions with the Indian diaspora and public speeches, Starmer has stated that Kashmir is an internal issue between India and Pakistan that will be resolved by the two countries. “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 stated at a meeting with the Labour Friends of India.

Here’s Why

Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the party passed an emergency motion in 2019 requesting that international observers “enter” Kashmir and demand the right of self-determination for its people. It also requested that Mr Corbyn meet with the high commissioners of both India and Pakistan to ensure “mediation” and the restoration of peace and normalcy in order to avoid a potential nuclear conflict.

India criticized the Labour Party’s resolution as an attempt to “pander to vote in the bank’s interest.” However, while campaigning for these elections, Starmer set out to correct the mistakes made by his party in the past. His party’s manifesto also pledged to pursue a “new strategic partnership” with India, emphasizing the trade agreement.

During meetings with the Indian diaspora and public appearances, Starmer stated that Kashmir is an internal issue that will be resolved between India and Pakistan.”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,” Starmer stated at a meeting with the Labour Friends of India.

In addition, during his election campaign, Starmer conducted outreach efforts, condemning Hinduphobia and celebrating cultural festivals such as Diwali and Holi. However, the mandate had little to do with support for Labour; rather, it was directed at Rishi Sunak’s Tories, who had their worst performance in two centuries, winning only 121 seats. Sunak described it as a “sobering verdict” in the wake of the Brexit referendum debacle. Sunak was once regarded as the ‘poster boy’ of the Indian community in the United Kingdom, but repeated failures appeared to have cost him dearly.

Now that the election is over, India can look forward to developments in the UK, following Starmer’s election as Prime Minister. Starmer, 61, worked tirelessly to change the party’s stance on India and Kashmir under Jeremy Corbyn, during which time Labour’s relationship with the Indian community was strained.

 

How will the Starmer administration establish relations with India?

Prior to the election, the Labour Party released an election manifesto promising a “new strategic partnership” with India, including the long-awaited Free Trade Agreement, as well as increased cooperation in areas such as security, education, technology and climate change. “I have a clear message for you all today: this is a changed Labour Party,” Starmer told the India Global Forum (IGF) last year.

Since Starmer was elected Prime Minister on Friday, India has much to look forward to, as newly appointed Foreign Secretary David Lammy has already promised to close the FTA deal and move forward in other areas of cooperation. Labour has also appointed British Indian MP Lisa Nandy as the new Secretary of State for Culture, Media, and Sport, which is expected to strengthen ties with the Indian community.

“I want to say to those people who’ve brought their nasty, hateful, racist politics to our town: the history of Wigan is of working-class people who for 100 years have driven you and your hate out of our town over and over again,” Nandy said in her acceptance speech after defeating her Conservative predecessor Lucy Frazer.

 

Also read: Why Did Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party Lost in UK’s General Elections?