The Labour Party in the United Kingdom has clarified that its stand on Kashmir dispute is that it is a “bilateral matter” between India and Pakistan that should be resolved peacefully, PTI reported on Tuesday.
This came a couple of months after it passed an emergency resolution advocating international intervention in Kashmir. The party was heavily criticised by sections of the Indian diaspora for the motion.
“The Labour Party will not adopt any anti-India or anti-Pakistan position over Kashmir,” Ian Lavery, the Opposition party’s chairperson, said in a letter issued on Monday, according to Hindustan Times. “We are motivated by our desire to protect human rights of all people in the current situation, and I am confident that this is a position you will share.”
The party reiterated that Kashmiris have the “right to have a say in their own future”, and added that it was against any external interference in the political affairs of other countries.
Lavery said Labour recognises the sensitivities associated with the Kashmir dispute, and emphasised that the party holds the Indian diaspora in the “highest regard”. “We recognise that the language used in the emergency motion has caused offence in some sections of the Indian diaspora, and in India itself,” the Labour leader added. “We are adamant that the deeply felt and genuinely held differences on the issue of Kashmir must not be allowed to divide communities against each other here in the UK.”
The party was forced to issue the statement after Respect British Indians, an umbrella group claiming to represent more than 100 diaspora groups, garnered support against its resolution. The group has reportedly drafted a pledge calling for the revocation of the “partisan and ill-informed” motion that it wants every Labour candidate in the December General Elections to sign.
Last week, The Guardian had reported that a number of British Hindus had received WhatsApp messages urging them to vote against Labour. British Indian candidates in the party have appealed to voters not to fall for the “divisive messages”.
“I urge my Hindu and Sikh British compatriots: Don’t fall for the divisive tactics of religious hardliners, trying to wedge apart our cohesive community, circulating lies on WhatsApp,” Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, the Labour MP for Slough told the British newspaper.
The messages accused Labour Party of being a “mouthpiece of the Pakistani government” and for being “anti-India, anti-Hindu and anti-[Prime minister Narendra] Modi”. The UK president of the Overseas Friends of the Bharatiya Janata Party recently told The Times of India that the group was actively campaigning for the Tories.
In October, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn had told a lobby group that some parts of emergency resolution on Jammu and Kashmir were “open to misinterpretation”. Corbyn’s meeting with the United Kingdom unit of the Indian Overseas Congress had also stirred controversy.