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Thursday, Oct 17, 2019

‘Open to misinterpretation’: UK’s Corbyn relents amid row over Kashmir stand

Corbyn admitted in a letter to the Labour Friends of India that “some of the language” used in the resolution was open to misinterpretation, insisting that he understood the concerns in the 1.5 million-strong Indian community here.

india Updated: Oct 11, 2019 15:19 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn gives a speech in Northampton, Britain. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday night signalled a rowing back in the face of anger in New Delhi and the Indian community in the UK over the party’s recent resolution on Jammu and Kashmir.
Britain's main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn gives a speech in Northampton, Britain. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday night signalled a rowing back in the face of anger in New Delhi and the Indian community in the UK over the party’s recent resolution on Jammu and Kashmir. (AP)
         

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on Thursday night signalled a rowing back in the face of anger in New Delhi and the Indian community in the UK over the party’s recent resolution on Jammu and Kashmir that is widely considered to be anti-India.

Corbyn admitted in a letter to the Labour Friends of India – a lobby group within the Labour party – that “some of the language” used in the resolution was open to misinterpretation, insisting that he understood the concerns in the 1.5 million-strong Indian community here.

As the lobby group and some Indian-origin Labour MPs relayed to him the anger in the community, Corbyn wrote: “The emergency motion on Kashmir came through as part of the democratic process of the Labour party conference”.

“However, there is a recognition that some of the language used within it could be misinterpreted as hostile to India and the Indian Diaspora. Labour understands the concerns the Indian community in Britain has about the situation in Kashmir and takes these concerns very seriously”.

“The Labour Party is committed to ensuring the human rights of all citizens of Kashmir are respected and upheld. This remains our priority and I agree that we should not allow the politics of the sub-continent to divide communities here in Britain”.

Corbyn went on to stress the need to build on the “historically good relationship” with India and the Indian diaspora, and offered to meet the lobby group to hear views on the issue from members across the Indian community.

As the party resolution raised hackles in New Delhi and the Indian community, the lobby group and senior Labour MPs Virendra Sharma and Keith Vaz called for its recall and an investigation into the procedure that led to it being passed at the annual conference.

The resolution that riled many said: “The conference urges the Labour party to ask Jeremy Corbyn or ensure someone from the Labour party is represented to attend the UNHRC to demand the restoration of basic human rights including the freedom of speech and communication, the lifting of curfews, and to allow the humanitarian aid organisation and international observers to enter the region.”

Reacting to the resolution, the MEA spokesperson said in New Delhi on September 26: “Government has noted certain developments at the Labour Party Conference on September 25 pertaining to the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir.”

“We regret the uninformed and unfounded positions taken at this event. Clearly, this is an attempt at pandering to vote-bank interests. There is no question of engaging with the Labour Party or its representatives on this issue.”

Labour MPs of Indian origin and others with large numbers of Indian origin voters in their constituencies have faced a backlash in recent days. Labour MPs have been conspicuous by their absence in official Indian events, include those commemorating the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

First Published: Oct 11, 2019 05:08 IST

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