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Is the return of Keir Starmer-led reinvented Labour Party in UK good news for India?
Photo Courtesy: Keir Starmer X page

Is the return of Keir Starmer-led reinvented Labour Party in UK good news for India?

| @indiablooms | 05 Jul 2024, 08:04 pm

Promising to rebuild Britain and assuring that the work of change has begun, Labour leader Keir Starmer led his party to a landslide victory in the UK general polls, dethroning the Rishi Sunak government and his Conservative's 14-year-old rule in the grand old nation of the world.

"Country first, party second. That's how we will serve," Starmer said in his first speech as UK PM.

Winning over 412 seats in the British House of Commons, Labour Party ensured a return just four years after Starmer took the leadership of the party following the political outfit's disastrous show in the 2019 poll.

Sunak's Conservatives struggled by winning  121 seats in the 650-member house.

One of the first world leaders to congratulate Starmer was Indian PM Narendra Modi who hoped to stitch a positive and constructive collaboration to further strengthen the India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in all areas.

India's previous stint with the Labour Party was not so positive when under the leadership of previous chief Jeremy Corbyn the outfit was considered antagonistic towards its former colony.

In September 2019, after the Indian government had repealed the emergency motion on Kashmir after revoking Article 370 of the constitution that used to grant special status to Jammu and Kashmir, the Labour Party passed an emergency motion.

According to reports, the motion then noted that “there is a major humanitarian crisis taking place in Kashmir,” and called for “international observers to enter the region.”

Following a backlash from the British Indian community,  Corbyn clarified that it views Kashmir as a 'bilateral matter' between India and Pakistan.

Soon, the results of the general polls were out and Labour suffered a massive defeat with many crediting its Kashmir Motion as the factor behind triggering such a response towards the ballot outcome.

Labour leader Keir Starmer took charge of the party's leadership in 2020 and soon under his leadership the political outfit changed its stance and reinvented itself in numerous issues including Kashmir.

"Starmer himself has declared that Labour would seek a closer relationship with India and the British Indian community, which numbers around 1.8 million and contributes over six per cent to the British economy," Firstpost reported in its explainer.

Starmer, with his more liberal outlook and pro-Indian perception, visited Shree Swaminarayan Mandir in Kingsbury when he was quoted as saying by the media: "There is absolutely no place for Hinduphobia in Britain.”

He even vowed to build a new strategic partnership with India if voted to power.

“If we’re elected next week we will strive to govern in the spirit of seva to serve you and a world in need,” he was quoted as saying by Firstpost.

“Strengthened by Hindu values, you’re not only contributing massively to our economy, you’re bringing innovation and expertise that keeps us competitive on the global market,” he said.

The party also began an investigation into one of the Sikh councillors, Parbinder Kaur, for sharing posts that allegedly support the  Khalistani movement in India.

The political party also demoted its  Indian-origin shadow minister Preet Kaur Gill for reportedly having links with pro-Khalistani extremists last year, all showing a softer stance the outfit has taken on India and its moving away from previous attitude towards New Delhi, the media report said.

The Labour Party also vowed to go ahead with the free trade agreement (FTA) with India if elected to power and it is time to find whether it implements the same after actually returning to the hot seat after 14 years.

India and the UK had 13 rounds of discussions on FTA so far but nothing progressed amid ongoing elections held in both countries.

An article published in The Indian Express said,"Immigration remains among the most heated issues in British politics. While the Tories and Labour disagree on how to restrict immigration into the UK, there is a bipartisan consensus on the fact that it must be restricted. This could be a sticking point for a trade deal with India."

"New Delhi is seeking temporary visas for its service sector workforce under the FTA — this is where it expects to gain the most in the deal. With the UK being a powerhouse in the IT and financial services segment, India’s service sector could benefit from the integration. But given the UK’s political climate, Labour is likely to negotiate hard on the visa issue," wrote journalist Ravi Dutta Mishra in his article published in the newspaper.

Arnab Das, Global Market Strategist -EMEA, Invesco, told The Economic Times: "I think the direction of travel is very clear. India is inexorably getting closer to the West, especially the United States, and I think the improving relationships with Europe, Japan, the EU, and the UK in particular are part of that bigger picture. The big challenge for India regionally geopolitically, geo economically is China. There have been tensions."

" So, there is not going to be any big rupture in Asia, but there is going to be a continuing integration or continuing alignment of India and other countries in Asia with the west and including the UK," he said. 

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