Divided Loyalties - The Kashmir Agenda on UK soil
The Kashmir plight continues to hit the headlines. It is a story since the independence of India and Pakistan, which will not go away. Both nations have entrenched their positions. It should be a conflict that India wants to resolve as an internal matter, but Pakistan is aggressively pushing for international support with little avail.
What is perhaps more disturbing is how Britain is not keeping out of what is essentially an internal matter for the sub-continent countries. In fact, there was supposed to be a long-standing cross-party position on Kashmir, that it was strictly a bilateral issue between Indian and Pakistan. The official Government position is to agree with India that it is an internal matter between India and Pakistan.
All India is trying to do is assimilate and progress Kashmir in line with the rest of India current success. So comparing this with Palestine as some of the protagonists are doing is absurd.
However, at the recent Labour Party Conference, Jeremy Corbyn changed all that by passing an emergency motion which basically supports the Pakistani position of internationalising the issue. This is a dangerous precedent for the Labour Party who are not even in Government. Even some of their own members called the decision ill-informed and partisan.
So, what are the consequences of such a step?
There are a significant number of communities linked to India and Pakistan living in the UK. You just have to follow the cricket analogy! On the whole, they live side by side and very peacefully. However, the Kashmir issue is in danger of slamming a wedge between the communities and bring religious disharmony.
The Labour Party’s decision has basically cemented minority votes by religion and ethnicity. A number of Pakistani origin MPs have been pushing the Labour agenda and Jeremy Corbyn is banking on the large vote banks at his disposal for the next election. On the other hand, it has completely alienated Indian and non-Muslim voters who are now most likely to support anyone, but the Labour party. Such trends were already appearing in the last election. The Kashmir blot will only further steepen the trend. It is a sad state of affairs and the Labour Party, which many Indians saw as their ‘friend’ is now the enemy and a traitor.
The UK, which has plenty on its plate with the Brexit fiasco. It should not be mixing the Kashmir issue in its domestic cocktail. Brexit is toxic enough! What is more worrying is how some of the British MPs are using the race/faith card to bolster their own positions for the next general election? The protests outside the Indian High Commission during India’s Republic Day recently where Indians were threatened with violence is an example of how things could get out of control. These people complain about India’s heavy-handedness in Kashmir by using vandalism and violence on the streets of London. How ironic?
So, what happens when the Labour Party takes such a stance?
It could argue that it is relying on the bigger Muslim vote bank then the Indian vote which will probably split between the different political parties.
But the bigger picture is that the UK still needs a positive relationship with India – it is good for both countries. The price of Brexit is that the UK needs to make friends and sign big agreements with friendly partners. Backstabbing one of your best friends is not a way forward after Brexit. Shouldn’t British MP’s be concentrating their efforts on their own internal problems – which there are plenty!
It is also quite feasible that the Labour Party has made itself even less electable and the ethnic vote may not play a bigger role as some people may expect. Britain is tired of the pendulum swinging so left that it alarms on the red of extremism.
As the Indian community and Indian Organisations finally wake up to the Labour decision, there is going to be some sleepless nights for those Indian origin MPs, who are not helping to support their respective communities.
At a small chance that the Labour Party does come to power, it is going to be a face-saving exercise in how such a Government will be able to deal with India. Let us hope, common sense prevails. The issue of Kashmir is a matter for India and Pakistan to deal with. British politicians should not be trying to interfere. The Empire has long been over for a while, and the new emerging powers no longer take bullying likely – they just bite back.