When UK’s Next PM Keir Starmer Changed Labour Party’s Stance on Kashmir, Promised Reset of India Ties

    It’s time for a regime change in United Kingdom as Labour Party’s Keir Starmer is all set to succeed Rishi Sunak as prime minister after a landslide victory in the general elections on Friday. Of the several global issues on Starmer’s agenda, one of his key responsibilities will be to mend his party’s ties with India, which have been turbulent due to the party’s stand on the Kashmir issue.

    It was September 2019 when the Labour Party, under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, passed an emergency motion that sought international observers must “enter” Kashmir, demanding the right of self-determination for its people. The motion also called for Corbyn to meet the high commissioners of India and Pakistan to ensure there is “mediation” and a potential nuclear conflict is avoided by restoring peace.

    This did not sit well with India, which termed it an effort to “pander to vote bank’s interest”.

    As the situation came to a head, it was Starmer who stepped in to defuse tensions. Aware of the significance of UK’s ties with a giant growing economy like India, Starmer emphasised during meetings with the Indian diaspora and public addresses that Kashmir is India’s internal issue and will be resolved by both the neighbours.

    “Any constitutional issues in India are a matter for the Indian Parliament, and Kashmir is a bilateral issue for India and Pakistan to resolve peacefully,” he said during a meeting with Labour Friends of India.

    In fact, in his manifesto, he included a commitment to pursue a “new strategic partnership” with India, emphasising the trade agreement. As part of his poll campaigns, Starmer made several attempts to rebuild trust with the British-Indian community, including participating in Hindu festivals like Diwali and Holi.

    Starmer’s outreach is not without cause. There are 1.9 million people of Indian origin residing in the UK, accounting for over 2.5 per cent of the overall population.


    Over the years, the British-Indian community — earlier considered staunch loyalists of the Labour Party — shifted to the Conservatives for a plethora of reasons. Apart from disappointment over the Labour Party’s political positioning on India’s domestic matters, the decision of the Conservatives to field India-origin candidates — such as Sunak — marked a shift in the community’s loyalties. According to The Guardian, some UK Indians have also complained that the party has focused more on poorer inner-city Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities than on them.

    It is this switch that Starmer now wants to nip in the bud.

    The soon-to-be prime minister has promised to reset relations between the Labour Party and India, admitting that they dropped the ball in their approach to relations with the world’s most populous country.

    During a UK-India Week conference, Starmer said: “There are lots of issues in the Labour party where, over the last two years, we have openly taken the decision to change our party to look out to the world in a different way – and to recognise when it comes to India, what an incredible, powerful, important country India is … and to ensure that we have the right relationship as we go forward.”

    Stung by the loss in the 2019 elections, the Labour Party is also looking to edge out anti-India sentiments within its ranks to build a strong strategic partnership with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government.

    At a Political Hustings’ event for Britain’s South Asian community organised by Asian Voice’ in partnership with City Sikhs and City Hindus Network in London on Friday evening, Labour Party chair and shadow secretary of state for women and equalities Anneliese Dodds claimed that the party led by Starmer is confident of having cleansed its ranks of any members with extremist views.


    British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak conceded defeat on Friday as his Conservative Party was on course for one of its worst election defeats and the Starmer-led Labour Party hurtled towards a landslide victory in the historic UK election. Official results showed the Labour Party has won enough seats to have a majority in the UK Parliament and will form the next government. The Labour Party is estimated to have a majority of around 160 seats in the House of Commons. The party had won 326 of the 650 seats by 5 am Friday as counting continued.

    In a triumphant speech on Friday, Starmer vowed to start a period of “national renewal” in the UK. “Today we start the next chapter — begin the work of change, the mission of national renewal and start to rebuild our country,” he said in London.

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  • Starmer added: “The change begins right here, because this is your democracy, your community and your future. You have voted. It is now time for us to deliver.”

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the world leaders who congratulated Starmer on his victory. “I look forward to our positive and constructive collaboration to further strengthen the India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in all areas, fostering mutual growth and prosperity,” he posted on X.

    News Desk

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    Location: London, United Kingdom (UK)

    first published: July 05, 2024, 12:36 IST

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