DIFFERENCES over Kashmir must not be allowed to divide communities against each other here in the UK, the chair of the Labour Party has said, adding the party would not adopt any “anti-India or anti-Pakistan” position over the matter.
In a letter dated November 11, Ian Lavery said that “Kashmir is a bilateral matter for India and Pakistan to resolve together by means of a peaceful solution”.
A party resolution over Kashmir passed during the annual Labour conference in September claimed there was “enforced disappearance of civilians, the state endorsed sexual violence of women by armed forces” and also an increase in the “overall prevalence of human rights violations in the region”.
It further said that “Kashmir was a disputed territory” and urged “Jeremy Corbyn or ensure someone from the Labour Party is represented to attend the UNHRC to demand the restoration of basic human rights” in the region.
The move caused upset among Asian communities in the UK and was criticised by the Indian government, which revoked Kashmir’s special status in August. Several Asian Labour MPs also distanced themselves from the party resolution, stating that Kashmir was a matter for India and Pakistan to resolve.
With a UK general election in a month’s time and following recent reports about how social media was being used to urge Indians to vote against Labour in the December 12 election, Lavery appeared this week to clarify the party’s stance.
He said: “The Labour Party is fully aware of the sensitivities that exist over the situation in Kashmir. We recognise that the language used in the emergency motion has caused offence in some sections of the Indian diaspora, and in India itself.
“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.”
Britain maintains that India and Pakistan should resolve their differences over Kashmir and prime minister Boris Johnson recently reiterated this view in parliament during Prime Minister’s Questions.
Seeking to address concerns among British Asian voters, the Labour Party chair said in his letter: “The Labour Party’s official position on Kashmir remains the same. Kashmir is a bilateral matter for India and Pakistan to resolve together by means of a peaceful solution which protects the human rights of the Kashmiri people.
“Labour is opposed to external interference in the political affairs of any other country.”
He added: “The Labour Party holds the Indian diaspora community in the highest regard.
“We respect and celebrate the immense contribution which Indians of all backgrounds have made to the UK in business, medicine, the arts and so many other fields. I am proud that Labour counts many people of Indian origin at all levels of our party and the broader labour movement.
“The Labour Party will not adopt any anti-India or anti-Pakistan position over Kashmir.”