Eye on Indian community, UK poll manifestos mention Kashmir, Punjab
A commitment to forge stronger links with India and the Commonwealth in the Conservative party manifesto released on Sunday set it apart from those of Labour and the Liberal Democrats, which have promised to focus more on caste, Kashmir and Punjab.
Unlike the Conservative party’s 2017 manifesto that made no mention of India, the 2019 version released by Prime Minister Boris Johnson says: “We will also forge stronger links with the Commonwealth, which boasts some of the world’s most dynamic economies such as India, with which we already share deep historical and cultural connections”.
“We will use export finance to increase our businesses’ access to emerging markets and engage diaspora communities in the UK with this agenda”.
This mention was quickly interpreted as the Conservative being the only party to make a ‘prominent pro-India statement’. The party has taken positions closer to influential sections of the 1.5 million-strong Indian community that closely tracks and follows trends in India.
The Liberal Democrats, the third major party that is going to the people with a promise to stop Brexit, did not mention India, but reiterated its intention to outlaw caste-based discrimination in the UK, a sensitive issue that has divided the community in recent years.
The Liberal Democrats and Labour have been supporting enacting such a legislation, while the Conservative government led by Theresa May shelved plans to do so on the ground that instead of a new law, it can be prevented through case law developing in courts and tribunals.
The Labour manifesto promises to tender a full apology for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, as well as hold a public review into Britain’s role in the 1984 Operation Bluestar, as was revealed in declassified documents in 2014.
Reiterating its human rights-focussed view of conflicts across the globe, Labour said in its manifesto: “The Conservatives have failed to play a constructive role in resolving the world’s most pressing humanitarian crises, including in Kashmir, Yemen and Myanmar, and the escalation of tensions with Iran”.
Labour found itself in some trouble with the Indian community over its resolution in September criticising New Delhi’s structural changes in the status of Jammu and Kashmir. It also supported Kashmir protests outside the Indian high commission, which turned violent.
Labour’s stand on Kashmir riled New Delhi and large sections of the community, many of whom have been circulating messages on social media with appeals not to vote for Labour in the December 12 election. Labour not fielding an Indian-origin candidate to replace the outgoing MP in Leicester East, Keith Vaz, has caused further upset.