Monday, 30th October 2017

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Pro-India link in Tory manifesto

This is in marked contrast to the Labour Party manifesto launched by Jeremy Corbyn

By Amit Roy in London
  • Published 26.11.19, 2:11 AM
  • Updated 26.11.19, 2:11 AM
  • 3 mins read
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Boris Johnson greets customers on a stall selling meat sandwiches at the Welsh County Show in Llanelwedd, Wales, Monday November 25, 2019 (AP)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has included a strong pro-India reference in the Conservative Party manifesto that he launched on Sunday in Telford in Shropshire.

The Tories promised: “We will also forge stronger links with the Commonwealth, which boasts some of the world’s most dynamic economies such as India, with which we already share deep historical and cultural connections. We will use export finance to increase our businesses’ access to emerging markets and engage diaspora communities in the UK with this agenda.”

Jitesh Gadhia, a respected Tory who sits as a non-affiliated member of the Lords because he oversees the government’s investment schemes, commented: “It is welcome to see the Conservative manifesto recognising the economic dynamism of India and other commonwealth countries, and acknowledging their deep links with the UK. The Conservatives are the only political party to make such a prominent pro-India statement in their programme for government.

“If you compare and contrast the election manifestos of all the UK’s political parties, only the Conservatives are prioritising the relationship with India and are appealing directly to British Indians by remaining neutral on Kashmir, standing up to terrorism and not supporting divisive caste legislation.”

This is in marked contrast to the Labour Party manifesto launched by Jeremy Corbyn, with its distinct anti-India tone and a pledge to intervene on Pakistan’s behalf over Kashmir.

“The Conservatives have failed to play a constructive role in resolving the world’s most pressing humanitarian crises, including in Kashmir, Yemen and Myanmar, and the escalation of tensions with Iran,” the Labour manifest said, implying Corbyn, if elected, will adopt a more “interventionist” role.

At least, that is what Indian sources predict.

There is no reference to Kashmir or to Pakistan in the Conservative manifesto.

But it does say that “in an uncertain world, in which the threat of terrorism, rogue states and malign non-state actors is ever present, it is vital that Britain stands up and is counted”.

Pakistan has claimed that the perpetrators behind the Mumbai massacre of 2008, which left behind 174 dead and over 300 injured — the planners are still free in Pakistan — were “non-state actors”.

The massacre is now the subject of a film, Hotel Mumbai, starring Dev Patel. There are indications that the film, showing alleged Pakistani perfidy, will be shown by Indian missions in many countries.

There are an estimated 2.5 million people of Indian origin in the UK, rather more than the 1.5 million figure often used by the authorities because the latter fails to take into account children born in the UK of Indian parents who have come from India or via Africa. The Pakistani origin population is put at 1 million.

“Look, I am not very political,” an Indian hotelier told The Telegraph at the weekend. “But this time, I’m not voting Labour — Corbyn’s so anti-Indian. He wanted to come to the (Swaminarayan) Neasden Temple (in north London). We said no.”

This same message is repeated time and again. A senior member of the Muslim community in Leicester claimed there is a gathering campaign to oust Corbyn supporter Claudia Webbe, who has been parachuted in from the National Executive Committee as the replacement for Keith Vaz as the Labour candidate for Leicester East. Vaz won the seat with a majority of 22,428 in 2017, it was pointed out.

At this, the man, who said that Indian Muslims in Leicester “are different from Pakistani Muslims in Manchester and Bradford”, rolled his eyes as though to indicate strange things might yet happen.

Meanwhile, a Tory peer confided: “I don’t mind it being known that I have suggested Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem ‘Friends of India’ should come together – the Tories and Lib Dems have agreed but Labour Friends of India are reluctant to come on board.”

This might be because Indians in the Labour Party do not wish to fall out with their much more influential Pakistani counterparts, who have ensured there is a reference to Kashmir in their election manifesto.

There are reports that Corbyn is systemically marginalising Indians. A recent report in The Times in London said about Labour’s stance on Kashmir: “The party is facing a backlash after it passed a motion at its annual conference attacking India’s crackdown in the disputed territory. It has been exacerbated by Labour’s failure to select a single candidate of Indian heritage in a target seat and only one in a seat where a sitting Labour MP has stood down.”