In­dia blames ‘vote-bank in­ter­ests’ for Labour Party’s re­mark on J&K

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Nation - In­[email protected] times­group.com

New Delhi: In a rare re­buke to the Bri­tish Labour Party, the govern­ment blamed “vote-bank in­ter­ests” for the crit­i­cal com­ments on J&K is­sued by the UK’s op­po­si­tion party. In a sharply worded re­proach, In­dia said, “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.”

In a week when the ModiTrump joint rally in Hous­ton ap­peared to pitch In­dian pref­er­ence to­wards the Repub­li­cans, from the tra­di­tional Democrats, this marked an in­ter­est­ing trend in In­dian di­plo­macy which has the po­ten­tial of po­lar­is­ing In­dia’s in­ter­ests in key coun­tries like the UK and the US.

There are about 1.6 million peo­ple of In­dian ori­gin in the UK who have a vote, as com­pared to about 1.2 million of Pak­istani ori­gin. Both In­dian and Pak­ista­nis started out as sup­port­ers of the Labour Party, which, un­like the Con­ser­va­tives, was much more wel­com­ing of im­mi­grants, much like the Democrats in the US.

How­ever, over the years, as In­di­ans moved up the so­cio-eco­nomic lad­der in the UK, their po­lit­i­cal pref­er­ences be­came a lit­tle more eclec­tic, with more and more mov­ing across the aisle to be­come Tory sup­port­ers. In ad­di­tion, In­di­ans are spread across cities, in­te­grat­ing much more fully, they pro­lif­er­ate dif­fer­ent pro­fes­sions and are gen­er­ally wealth­ier and more ed­u­cated. There­fore, it is dif­fi­cult to get In­dian-ori­gin Bri­tons to march in protest against Pak­istan on a week­day af­ter­noon when even the most com­mit­ted are out at work.

Pak­istani Mus­lims or Mir­puris stayed with the Labour Party. They also pre­fer to live in closed neigh­bour­hoods, and vote en bloc, par­tic­u­larly be­cause they work in dif­fer­ent trades, are less ed­u­cated and have stronger con­nects with their home coun­tries through the mosque net­works. In some cru­cial con­stituen­cies like Lu­ton, Eal­ing, Brad­ford and parts of Birm­ing­ham, sources said, Mus­lims can swing elec­tions, which makes them a po­tent po­lit­i­cal voice with Labour politi­cians.

A more re­cent phe­nom­e­non has been no­ticed by In­di­ans. Pak­ista­nis, and other Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties, are be­ing per­suaded to join the Labour Party, which gives them a big­ger voice. When they have to weigh in on is­sues that they re­gard as “Is­lamic”, they can en­list the sup­port of Nige­ri­ans and Bangladesh­is as well. In­di­ans are more in num­ber but they are less or­gan­ised as a po­lit­i­cal force and more dif­fused to be a vot­ing bloc.

But this means In­dian in­ter­ests get af­fected by Pak­ista­nis tak­ing a uni­fied po­si­tion on is­sues like Kash­mir which is in­creas­ingly be­ing seen as an “Is­lamic” cause. Go­ing for­ward, In­dian di­plo­macy is find­ing it­self in un­charted wa­ters as it might have to get its hands in in­flu­enc­ing Bri­tish po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

Jeremy Cor­byn, Leader of UK Labour Party

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