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Saturday Jun 06 2020
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Labour leader reaffirms support for Kashmir plebiscite

We will continue to work hard to reaffirm our commitment to stand up for the rights of Kashmiri people in the most constructive and effective manner, says Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer. — Photo by author

LONDON: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has reaffirmed his support for the United Nations Resolutions on Kashmir which demand a plebiscite in the India-occupied Kashmir.

His pledge comes after weeks of rebellion from within the Labour party in the wake of a statement made to the Hindu Forum of Britain by Starmer where he claimed that "Kashmir is a bilateral issue for India and Pakistan to resolve peacefully."

Labour MP Afzal Khan had written to Labour leader Starmer demanding support for Kashmiris and reminding him that Kashmir is not a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan.

In a written response, the newly appointed Labour leader reiterated his support for the rights of the oppressed Kashmiri people. He said: "Our position on Kashmir has not changed. We support and recognise previous UN resolutions on the rights of Kashmiri people."

Starmer said that for a lasting settlement on the issue of occupied Kashmir, Pakistan and India should work together and with the people of occupied Kashmir to end the ongoing conflict which has claimed the lives of more than 100,000 Kashmiris killed by the occupation army.

At the end of the letter, Starmer said: "We will continue to work hard to reaffirm our commitment to stand up for the rights of Kashmiri people in the most constructive and effective manner."

The MP for Manchester Gorton Afzal Khan had reminded Starmer that despite trying for 72 years, both countries have been unable to resolve the Kashmir issue due to India’s violation of the UN resolutions.

"We cannot forget that India and Pakistan have gone to war 3 times and China and India have also been at war. The real danger of a war between three nuclear-armed states cannot be ruled out until the issue of Kashmir is resolved," the MP had written in a strongly worded letter.

Khan further stated: "In the spirit of community engagement, may I suggest you also reach out to the British Kashmiri and Pakistani communities. I would be more than happy to facilitate such a meeting."

Reminding Starmer of how the Labour party has a long history of protecting Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) communities' rights, MP Khan: "There is a long way to go - and we'll only get there if all voices are heard."

The recommendations of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Kashmir which demanded a complete halt to the human rights violations in Kashmir by India, as well as the implementation of the United Nations Resolutions, was also mentioned in the letter. Khan argued that it was the duty of the Labour party to uphold human rights both nationally and internationally.

The promise of support from Starmer comes at a time when India is involved in severe ceasefire violations in Kashmir and has unleashed the Indian army on the Kashmiri population, forcing them to live in lockdown without internet and telephone facilities.

The Labour Party has faced a rebellion from thousands of workers and officials who opposed his statement about it being a bilateral issue. Hundreds of mosques also wrote to him threatening that they will withdraw support for Labour in the next elections if the party leader did not withdraw "the false comments which negated the history and legacy of Britain".