Security personnel stand guard during restrictions in Srinagar
Security personnel stand guard during restrictions in Srinagar | PTI
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New Delhi: Britain’s opposition Labour Party has taken an unusually aggressive position against India’s move to strip Jammu and Kashmir of its special status.

While this is being seen as a major departure from the longstanding bipartisan consensus in London to treat the Kashmir issue as a strictly bilateral one between India and Pakistan, diplomatic observers said the shift is rooted in the local politics of Britain.

A significant chunk of the supporters of Labour Party members who have raised their voice against the Modi government’s move to scrap Article 370 have their roots in Pakistan or Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), they said.

The Labour Party was one of the first to react when the Narendra Modi government made its shock announcement on 5 August to scrap Article 370 and split Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories. Labour MP Liz McInnes, who is also the party’s ‘Shadow Foreign Minister’, issued a statement the same evening when no other country had reacted to the development.

In a detailed statement, the party said, India’s decision to scrap the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, and its bifurcation “threatens stability in the region and the chances of a peaceful resolution which is so desperately needed”.

McInnes even urged UK’s foreign secretary Dominic Raab to “do everything within his power to deescalate this tense and threatening situation and end the cycle of violence and fear within which generation after generation of Kashmiri children have grown up for the last seven decades”.

This was followed by Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s tweet last Sunday. “The situation in Kashmir is deeply disturbing. Human rights abuses taking place are unacceptable. The rights of the Kashmiri people must be respected and UN resolutions implemented,” he wrote.

As many as eight Labour MPs have even urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to call the Modi government’s move on Kashmir illegal and unjustified.

MP Yasmin Qureshi, who represents Bolton South East, wrote a letter to Johnson, urging him to “strongly condemn the actions of the Indian government” and its “illegal and unconstitutional revocation of Article 370 to annex Kashmir”.

Qureshi was born in Pakistan’s Gujrat city and moved to Britain when she was nine years old.

Labour vs Tories over Kashmir

The Labour Party’s combative mood was countered by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Tories.

Conservative Party MP Bob Blackman also shot off a letter to 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the British PM, condemning the Labour Party for reacting on India’s “internal matter”.

Blackman wrote that the Constitutional changes are an “internal matter” for India, which is a “long-standing friend and ally” of the Britain.

“It has been the long-held position of successive UK governments that any matter concerning Kashmir is a strictly bilateral issue between India and Pakistan. We should urgently clarify whether the Labour Party has decided to break with cross-party consensus given the significant adverse impact this would have upon the future of UK-India relations,” Blackman said.

He also went on to accuse the Labour Party of being “anti-Indian” and “anti-Hindu” that is not keen on establishing a long-term friendly relationship with India.

Last week, after a telephone conversation between Prime Minister Johnson and his Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan, 10 Downing Street had issued a statement saying the situation in Kashmir was “serious” while agreeing to the fact that a dialogue on the issue has to be maintained.

Raab, on other hand, said that he has conveyed Britain’s “concerns” to India’s foreign minister S. Jaishankar.

Analysts said they are not surprised by the hard turn of the Labour Party on Kashmir. After all, British-Pakistani and Muslim voters have helped revive the party and even propelled its leader Corbyn to Labour leadership, they said.

According to a survey conducted in 2017 by Pakistan-based The News and Geo TV, there were around 39 constituencies in Britain in which more than 1,000 voters were Muslims. “A clear pattern in all constituencies shows that more than 90 per cent of these voters voted for Labour as Conservatives didn’t make any effort to connect with these voters,” the survey said.

A British problem

India has long viewed Britain to be pro-Pakistan on the Kashmir issue even though successive governments in London, including the present one headed by Johnson, have generally sought to maintain their distance from the thorny dispute.

In 1985, then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi had raised serious concerns with then British PM Margaret Thatcher, who was a Conservative Party member, for creating a ‘Parliamentary Committee on Kashmir’ that largely constituted MPs whose voters were mostly of Pakistani origin.

During his visit to Pakistan in 2006, then British prime minister Tony Blair, a Labour Party leader, had ruled out the possibility of Britain mediating peace between India and Pakistan on Kashmir.

However, Blair had also linked the Kashmir dispute and Chechen fighting with the war that was underway in Iraq, Afghanistan and West Asia. He had even described the incidents as the overarching “arc of Muslim extremism” across the world.

Later, it was David Cameron, Britain’s prime minister for six years from 2010, who had said that Britain was responsible for many of the world’s historic problems, including the conflict in Kashmir between India and Pakistan.

While he rejected Pakistan’s request for mediation with India, Cameron had said during one of his visits to Islamabad: “I don’t want to try to insert Britain in some leading role where, as with so many of the world’s problems, we are responsible for the issue in the first place.”

Ambition to mediate

Some experts, however, said that a section of British politicians has always nurtured a secret desire to mediate peace between India and Pakistan.

“It is a very serious situation and is affecting Indian and Pakistani communities in the UK,” British military historian Victoria Schofield, who has done extensive research on Kashmir, told ThePrint.

Schofield, author of ‘Kashmir in Conflict: India, Pakistan and The Ending War’, said that in 1997 the Labour Party had passed a resolution that the Kashmir issue was part of the unfinished business of Partition.

“Their (Labour Party) various Members of Parliament who had people in their constituencies from Pakistan-administered Kashmir had done a lot of lobbying prior to the passage of the resolution. So, the reaction now reflects that sentiment,” she added.

Nandan Unnikrishnan, distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), said, “In a charitable way the Labour Party seems genuinely concerned that there can be a flare-up between India and Pakistan.”

“However, personally I think this does not come as a surprise that British politicians want to be seen relevant by trying to meddle between India and Pakistan,” he added.

According to another expert, who did not wish to be identified, the issue also connects with the presence of Indian as well as Pakistani diaspora in Britain, who are major vote banks.

Former diplomat Neelam Deo, director of Mumbai-based Gateway House, said, “The UN resolutions are long outdated. Besides, Corbyn who has no locus standi in this matter should see what the UNSG (United Nations Secretary General) himself has said. Britishers who have historically created problems around the world should now focus on the mess that is BREXIT.”

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  1. Sir,
    It is BRITISHERS who ERUPTED INDO PAK PROBLEMS WAY BACK IN1909 by MORLEAY-MINTO REFORMS . After Recognising this Mistake , Montwgue – Chelmsford Reforms failed to Rectify This Mistake in 1919 and Ended with The PARTITION OF INDIA IN 1947.
    In 1971 PAKISTAN was on it’s kneels after loosing The War, Smt Indira Gandhi Failed To SOLVE KASHMIR ISSUE FOR EVER Then.

    With best wishes for betterment,
    Yours truly,
    Shiva Kumar.T.N.

  2. These intellectual terrorists are working against India and spreading bad comments wherever they are. No other religion people will not comment or behave madly..At least one man Modiji came and doing something for this country. Let’s wait and give him some space. Idiots will not give any solutions but criticise like eunochs. Britishers actually created this problem and in coming 10 years surely so many separist movements on religious griunds will happen in UK
    ,,,,, this is reality they will face it..

  3. Kashmiris will be benefited with removal of 370 move and pls understand situation of new youth in Kashmir and keep away them to go into wrong path and pain day to day all Kashmiris were suffering..

  4. What was a temporary provision in the Indian constitution removed altogether. Why Britain and it’s party is taking aggressive stance on it. And this nation is notorious for it’s racial stand and inhuman activities. The pages of history not yet effaced British colonial period era on this subcontinent.

  5. Actually India had taught the world that every thing is fair to get votes in elections. This is what
    happened in usa and labour in England is trying to copy the same. Modified version of divide and rule given by us is being accepted now everywhere in the power game

  6. I don’t feel comfortable with this line, “… Constitutional changes are India’s internal matter… “. It does not quite sound complete, but I am unable to think up a convincing argument. Are ALL constitutional changes a country’s internal matter? Let me try this:

    Suppose at a given time there are aeroplanes from the USA, UK, Zimbabwe, Croatia and a few other countries parked at different Indian airports for refueling. Suddenly Narendra Modi passes a rule that, “all aeroplanes on Indian territory are India’s property”, and simultaneously he locks up the ambassadors and other staff of these countries’ embassies. What happens then?

    • Sanjiv, what you conveniently ignored while comparing a constitutional amendment, or any legislative action by duly elected representative and a decision to seize property and assets of foreign countries that both are two separate instances. What you do internally and what you do externally are totally different. Seizing assets of other countries is an infringement of diplomatic decisions, which are never taken without mutual discussion. You SHOULD know that airplanes of other countries come for landing/refilling ONLY if Govt of India has already approved it. You can not abrogate such decisions as it is tantamount to not respecting the sovereign integrity of that nation. It is a direct breach of international conventions and that country would be justified in resorting to military action. They then would have full right to seize Indian assets abroad.
      What food you eat in your house is your prerogative, what you do outside your house would, whether in public place or someone’s house would invite others to take against against you.
      Hope you would have understood, and you don’t try this.

      • Anil, thanks for a calm and reasoned rejection of what I wrote, instead of something like Pallab Das’ impatient rejection, calling me a terrorist. Actually I too wasn’t convinced about the example I gave, but it sounded funny so I let it go. Let us not be very serious all the time.

        This subject of Kashmir has been hot for quite some time. 370 has happened only now. I remember that I have commented many times right here, on THE PRINT, that we were close to internationalization of this subject. Pakistan always wanted it, Narendra Modi has leant them a helping hand by this decision. My simple question is this : If it was India’s internal matter, and so desirable from India’s standpoint, then why was this decision not taken in the entire 70 years? Including 6 of Atal ji’s government.

        You know, Modi has in fact made the FINAL solution of the Kashmir problem EXTREMELY EASY. I may again be called a terrorist by P Das. Let this be the final division of the Kashmir pie – – now that India has claimed our Kashmir as legally our own, let us accept that whatever Pakistan has, the POK, belongs to that country, and Aksai Chin be China’s. We are still the winners with 45% of the pie, while others have 35 and 20% respectively. But if we continue like Amit Shah claiming the whole, tell me, WHICH COUNTRY will allow it? Worse than that, we might end up shedding untold amount of our own people’s blood (Kashmiris’). We are very close to the final solution of this problem, or have jumped right in the middle of a quagmire. But one thing is certain, we are closer to international or UN intervention than we ever were. No amount of foolish patriotism can wish them away.

    • All international treaties become a part of the constitution either directly or through enabling legislation when they are signed. So, if any nation decides to do some kind of confiscate and nationalize program they will be most likely be in violation of their own laws. Nations of course can and have changed such laws to nationalize companies especially oil or other important commodities where the suppliers hold an upper hand over the market. No one can do anything about nations changing their laws, but yeah locking up diplomats can be a reason to declare war. Of course any such abrupt decision would lead to a flight .of capital and make it nearly impossible to bring in fdi and maybe even lose trading status with other countries.

      In this case the point is that the constitutional changes do not violate any international treaty commitments by India.

    • Really surprised to see still there are some people in India who unknowingly act as dumb as radicalized creature, just to satisfy their own ego on MODI enemity and end up showing India in a bad light in front of the world. Brush up your sense of logic and knowledge before commenting on anything and everything. You are comparing between a plane(MOVABLE OBJECT) which has flown in from another continent overnight and Kashmir which is historically a part of BHARAT and used to be controlled by HINDU kings for GENERATIONS.
      Some time I feel terrorist are better then you as we can find them out or distinguish them but people like you stay and poisoning our society and hide behind a mask so that it is very difficult to recognize. Shame on you….

    • Nothing much will happen in that line, but Mr.Sanjiv Bhatia sounds stupid. Frankly speaking, I am not a Modi fan but what you wrote doesn’t make any sense. For your information, I lived in Kashmir for few years with Kashmiris and I seriously feel Congress should have done this change 30 years back and many problems what is currently happening could have finished long back. I am serious.

      • Simon, this has happened many times before, so I must correct it. (I will not become any less an idiot by doing so, haha) My surname is BhatLa, and not Bhatia.

  7. Jeremy Corbyn is an idiot. As long as he is there at the helm, labour will never win. India should throw the question back at him on his views on Jews.

Comments are closed.