UK’s Labour Party promises to improve its relations with India

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Keir Starmer, leader of the UK’s opposition Labour Party, pledged on Monday to restore relations between his party and India after years of rising tensions, the Guardian newspaper reported.

The party’s relationship with India and the British Indian community deteriorated in recent years as authorities in Delhi adopted an increasingly right-wing, nationalist agenda. In particular, Labour was accused of siding with Pakistan when some in the party called for independence for the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

In 2019, the party sparked a backlash among Indian organizations after passing an emergency motion calling for international observers to be allowed into the territory. Labour later said it would not take sides in the dispute. Some British Indians have also accused the party of prioritizing impoverished inner-city Pakistanis and Bangladeshis over Indians in similar positions.

Starmer said on Monday that his party had made mistakes in its approach to relations with India, the Guardian reported, and would pursue closer ties if it wins the next general election, which is due to be held no later than Jan. 28, 2025.

“In the past, Labour gave the impression we could only see the lives of people in communities who needed our support,” Starmer told delegates on the opening day of the UK-India Week conference in London.

“But my Labour Party understands that what working people in every community need is success, aspiration and security.

“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 recognize 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.”

As the largest ethnic minority in the UK, numbering about 1.9 million, British Indians represent a potentially important source of votes in closely contested constituencies.

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