Less than a month into his new role, Sir Keir the changed the opposition party’s approach to the decades-old dispute following a call with members of Labour Friends of India (LFIN) on Thursday. At the Labour Party conference in Brighton last November, delegates passed a motion criticising India’s role in the conflict.
The LFIN responded by hitting out at the “anti-Indian rhetoric contained in the emergency motion on Kashmir”.
Seeking to repair the damage done to the relationship between the his party and British-Indian Labour voters, Sir Keir said matters relating to the Kashmir region should be addressed by only India and Pakistan.
He said: “We must not allow issues of the sub-continent to divide communities here.
“Any constitutional issues in India are a matter for the Indian Parliament, and Kashmir is a bilateral issue for India and Pakistan to resolve peacefully.
“Labour is an internationalist party and stands for the defence of human rights everywhere.”
The MP for Holborn and St Pancras was heavily criticised on social media by voters concerned about the fate of Kashmiris.
Young Labour member Umaar Kazmi took to Twitter to vent his anger over the change in position.
The 23-year-old claimed Sir Keir’s view would give Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi the go-ahead to “continue his brutal assault” on Kashmir.
“I am livid,” he wrote.
“This is an unacceptable change in Labour Conference policy from Keir Starmer and it must—must—be reversed.
“This is tantamount to giving Modi the green light to continue his brutal assault and human rights violations against the people of Kashmir.
“It cannot stand.”
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Guardian columnist Owen Jones said he would have preferred to see Sir Keri adopt a stronger position on the conflict and support Kashmiris’ desire for self-determination.
He said: “Kashmir is a matter for the Kashmiri people, not the Indian Parliament.
“Labour should support national self-determination and human rights unequivocally.”
Another person branded Sir Keir’s position “shameful and miserable and embarrassing”.
They said: “Studious reluctance to take a position on even the most obvious iniquities.
“Not least, that Kashmir is first and foremost a matter for Kashmiris rather than the parliament.”
And another accused the Labour leader of shrugging his shoulders in the face of “monstrosities being conducted by Modi in Kashmir”.
The LFIN hailed Thursday’s video conference with Sir Keir and Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner as “very productive”.
Rajesh Agrawal, co-chairman of the group and deputy mayor of London for business, said of Sir Keir: “I really welcome his commitment to rebuilding strong links between the Labour Party and the Indian community.”
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