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