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Britain’s Labour party changes its stance on Kashmir

Date: 03 May 2020 Tags: India & World


During his first dialogue with the Labour Friends of India (LFI) group, the UK Labour party’s newly appointed leader Keir Starmer said Kashmir was “a bilateral issue for India and Pakistan to resolve peacefully“. He emphasised that such issues should not divide communities in Britain.



Starmer’s remarks were seen as an attempt to re-position his party’s stance on Kashmir and reach out to the Indian community in Britain. During the dialogue, Starmer also pledged to build stronger business links with India.



  • The party’s relations with the Indian diaspora have been strained, especially after its delegates passed an emergency policy motion in September 2019 criticising India’s decision to revoke Article 370.

  • This resulted in Jammu and Kashmir losing its special status and was divided into two Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The delegates maintained that the people of Kashmir should have self-determination rights.

  • Its motion at the time stated: “The enforced disappearance of civilians, the state endorsed sexual violence of women by armed forces and the overall prevalence of human rights violations in the region not only continues but has exasperated further in the past week.”

  • Just a few days after the abrogation, former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn posted on Twitter, “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.”

  • After the motion was passed, Ian Lavery, then party chair, clarified the party’s position on the matter and said that the issue was bilateral for India and Pakistan. This came after several Indian groups wrote to Corbyn protesting the motion.

  • A report in The Guardian said that in the run-up to the general elections, WhatsApp messages were sent to several British Hindus, urging them not to vote for Labour as the party was “anti-India” and “anti-Hindu”, and was trying to create tensions between Pakistanis and Indians in the UK.

  • Indians are the largest ethnic community in the UK, numbering over 1.5 million people or accounting for over 2.3 per cent of the country’s population.

  • Therefore, they form a significant vote share for any party. In the 2017 general elections, 50 per cent of the Indians living in the UK had voted for Labour.

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