British MP denied entry into IndiaUpdated: Feb 18, 2020 00:00 IST
New Delhi: A British MP who chairs a parliamentary group on Kashmir was denied entry into India on arrival at the New Delhi airport on Monday, with officials saying she had been informed in advance of her e-visa’s cancellation.
Debbie Abrahams, the Labour Party MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth since 2011 and chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Kashmir from 2018, and her aide Harpreet Uppal arrived at the airport in an Emirates flight from Dubai at 9am.
A statement issued on her behalf said Abrahams, 59, was told by immigration officials her e-visa, issued last October and valid till October 2020, had been rejected. She said the officials didn’t cite any reasons for denying her entry.
An official of the home ministry, who asked not to be named, said Abrahams’ e-visa “was cancelled and she was informed regarding the decision in advance”. He added that “she didn’t have the visa when she landed at Indira Gandhi International Airport.”
Another official, who too didn’t want to be named, said Abrahams was denied entry as she “was not in possession of a valid visa to visit India”.
Abrahams was put on a return flight to the UK in the afternoon. Responding to reports she didn’t possess a valid visa, she tweeted: “I’m sorry but that just is not the reality.”
She intended to make a personal visit to New Delhi to meet Indian relatives before travelling to Pakistan for a three-day official visit as a member of the all party parliamentary group for Kashmir. Abrahams told the UK media she “wouldn’t be surprised” if the denial of entry was linked with her work with the group.
“I became a politician to promote social justice & human rights FOR ALL. I will continue to challenge my own Government & others while injustice & abuse is unchecked,” she tweeted.
A British high commission spokesperson said: “We are in contact with the Indian authorities to understand why Deborah Abrahams MP was denied entry to India. We provided consular assistance to her whilst she was in New Delhi airport.”
Abrahams told AP she had been unsuccessful in organising a visit to Kashmir with the Indian high commission in London since October. She added she had received permission to visit Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. “It was implied to me that it was linked to that,” Abrahams said, referring to a conversation with British officials in New Delhi.
She has been critical of the Indian government’s decision to revoke Jammu & Kashmir’s special status last August. In a petition, she called on the UK government to use all diplomatic and economic measures at its disposal to exert influence on India to “recognise that Kashmiri people must be at the heart of any changes to constitutional arrangements in the region”.
Her latest intervention was on February 4, when she asked the Boris Johnson government to send a team of the all-party parliamentary Group on Kashmir to the region on a fact-finding mission.
Heather Wheeler, the parliamentary under secretary of state for foreign and Commonwealth affairs responded: “The Foreign Secretary raised this issue with the Foreign Minister for India. Perhaps I could write to the Hon. Lady afterwards.”
India has described the changes in Kashmir as an internal matter and rejected criticism of the move by other countries.