Several Indian diaspora organisations have come together to register their strong protest against a new "fringe" Conservative Party group calling for “self-determination” in Kashmir and have issued angry letters to the ruling party headquarters, copies of which have also been sent to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and UK Home Secretary Priti Patel.
The protest follows the revival of a so-called “Conservative Friends of Kashmir” group, announced on social media last week by seven Conservative MPs representing constituencies with a significant Pakistani diaspora population in the UK. While the Conservative Party has said it does not recognise the group as an official organisation, around 83 diaspora groups came together to issue a collective letter to call for the group to be formally disowned and disbanded for trying to meddle in the internal affairs of India.
“The UK and its political parties have no locus standi on interfering in the territorial disputes/issues of the sub-continent. With that in mind, it is highly objectionable that a @CFoKashmir group is allowed to be set up within the ruling party to further the agenda of the proxies of Pakistan government who aim to destabilise and divide the region using terrorism and religion,” reads the letter, signed by groups such as the Friends of India Society International (FISI) UK, Global Organisation of People of Indian Origins (GOPIO) London, National Hindu Students Forum (NHSF) UK, Indian National Students Association (INSA) UK and ABHI UK.
“We would like to bring this to the notice of the Conservative Party leadership, that @CFoKashmir and its objectives seem nefarious and is seen as directly meddling in the affairs of the Indian sovereign territory. The UK’s position concerning Jammu and Kashmir has always been clear and consistent and that it is a bilateral issue to be peacefully resolved between India and Pakistan,” it notes, calling on party co-chairs Benjamin Elliot and Amanda Milling to “immediately disband” the organisation.
The Overseas Friends of BJP (OFBJP), a signatory of the letter, had also issued its own letter to the Tory headquarters calling for “prompt action” against the group.
“Government of India is constantly striving to improve the standard of living of people residing in JK&L [Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh] in spite of extremely provocative and constant export of terrorism from Pakistan with active support of Pakistan armed forces and its government,” said Kuldeep Shekhawat, President of the OFBJP.
“In the recently held general elections, the British Indian population whole- heartedly supported the Conservative Party, resulting into an overwhelming majority for the party, relegating the Labour Party to its worst ever defeat since 1930,” he said, highlighting the importance of the British Indian electorate for the Conservatives.
The Conservative Friends of Kashmir group, which claims to have “relaunched”, is co-chaired by James Daly, MP for Bury North, and Paul Bristow, MP for Peterborough. Its declared aim is to “campaign for self-determination and an end to human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir”.
Conservative Friends of India (CFI), the official Indian diaspora group of the ruling party, says it is "very disappointed" at the development and has also strongly raised its concerns with the party headquarters.
A CFI statement said: “The Conservative Friends of India, along with our Patrons, Members and the wider Indian diaspora were naturally very disappointed to learn about the formation of the Conservative Friends of Kashmir. We have been in contact with the Chairman of the Conservative Party to express our concerns and the concerns of our members.
“This group is not an official or affiliated Conservative Party group. We remain in conversation with the party chairman and will keep our members updated. We have received significant support and solidarity from many MPs, who clearly support the policy work and ethos of Conservative Friends of India.”
The view was echoed by London-based Tory MP Bob Blackman, who has issued his own letter to the Tory chair urging that the new group not be officially recognised in any way.
He said: “Jammu and Kashmir is internationally recognised as a state of India and we do not have any other ‘Conservative Friends’ that represent other areas of India. Indeed, party policy is that security in Jammu and Kashmir is an internal matter for India.
“I have previously written to the Prime Minister regarding the issue and he reiterated party policy on Jammu and Kashmir, both in writing and also on the floor of the House of Commons."
by iGlobal Desk