• Friday, April 12, 2024

Headline story

Labour launches outreach to connect with Indian diaspora

File photo of Labour Party leader Keir Starmer and his party MPs attending Prime Minister’s Questions, at the House of Commons in London, Britain, February 21, 2024. UK Parliament/Maria Unger/Handout via REUTERS

By: Shajil Kumar

The UK’s opposition Labour Party has launched a new diaspora outreach organisation to connect with British Indians and also to strengthen its interactions with India in a year when both countries are preparing for general elections.

The party’s shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, marked the launch of “Labour Indians” in the Houses of Parliament complex in London on Tuesday evening by giving an update on his recent visit to India and sharing his ambitions for the India-UK partnership if Labour were to win the next election.

Describing India as a “superpower”, the Labour leader stressed that its strategic importance meant that the relationship transcends party political divides. “India is a superpower with a superpower entrepreneurial, innovative, scientific, industrial base and a superpower-sized population,” said Lammy.

“Of course, India still has challenges. But I do not doubt that in this geopolitical moment, it’s hugely important that the UK understands that India is this superpower force in the world. And, it should be the case that it does not matter who is the Prime Minister of India, who is the Prime Minister at Number 10 (Downing Street) because it’s so important strategically that notwithstanding political position, we have a very strong relationship,” he said.

Asked about some anti-India rhetoric associated with Labour under former party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Lammy said the Opposition party had been on a journey and transformed itself under the leadership of Keir Starmer.

“It’s a journey where clearly, we look back on the Corbyn years as really very unsuccessful for our fortunes politically. I think some of the perception in the Indian community was formed by that period. My trip to India was about looking forward,” he said.

Lammy also committed the party to “finish the job” of a free trade agreement (FTA) with India, which is in its fourteenth round of negotiations kicked off by the Conservative government in January 2022 and now facing a general election deadline on both sides.

“There’s a lot of discussion about the trade agreement. It’s not my normal job to undermine the government in reaching that agreement, we want that agreement. But if the government are not successful in getting a trade deal, we do intend to finish the job and secure it. And, we also wanted to take the message across that we see the trade agreement as the floor, not the ceiling in the relationship with India because there’s a lot more we can do across all areas,” he said.

Lammy welcomed the role the new diaspora group could play in the India-UK space to bring the Labour Party closer not only to the British Indian community but also to India.

“We hope to be different in the way we go about doing things. We want to be inclusive,” said Krish Raval, Chair of Labour Indians.

He is supported by fellow British Indian vice-chairs, Councillor Shama Tatler and Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate from Wales Kanishka Narayan.

“Indian households had moved away from the Labour Party for various reasons and it was hard knocking on those doors to understand why families previously strong Labour voters felt that way. We are moving in the right direction [under Starmer] but we need to be talking more to the communities who have been let down by the Conservatives,” said Tatler.

“What differentiates Labour Indians from other organisations with similar aims is that we’re a project and not an institution. We can be agile and evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of progressive British Indians,” said Dr Nikita Ved, co-founder of the British Indian think tank 1928 Institute who is also involved with Labour Indians.

The new outfit follows the Labour Party recently appointing a dedicated India engagement organiser, in a sign that it is keen to connect with the 1.8-million-strong Indian diaspora in the UK with a general election expected in the second half of this year. (PTI)

Pakistan Weekly

Related Stories