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MIHIR BOSE’S APPEAL TO DIASPORA: Do Your Home Work Before Appearing on Telly

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I must say these spokespersons from the diaspora have not cut a very convincing figure.  The Indian position may not be all that easy to defend but surely they can summon better arguments than they have managed so far….writes Mihir Bose, former Sports Editor of BBC

Manchester: An Indian fan reacts after India lost to New Zealand in the 1st Semi-final match of 2019 World Cup at Old Trafford in Manchester, England on July 10, 2019. (Photo: Surjeet Kumar/IANS) by . The Kashmir crisis has thrown a spotlight on the Indian diaspora in this country. It is not without significance that many of those who have gone on various media outlets to defend India’s position have been members of the diaspora.

I must say these spokespersons from the diaspora have not cut a very convincing figure.  The Indian position may not be all that easy to defend but surely they can summon better arguments than they have managed so far. One on Newsnight was so confused and brought in such irrelevant matters that the person attacking the Modi’s government decision was, in footballing terms, facing an open goal and could not fail to score.

But while the Indian diaspora’s spokespersons may not have distinguished themselves the crisis has also served to remind us of how the position of the Indian diaspora in the UK has changed and how this has had an impact on the reaction of the British government to this crisis.

I can well recall how in my student days, my landlady, upset I was reading the Guardian and not her favourite newspaper the Daily Telegraph, said, “You must not believe Labour propaganda that they gave India freedom. Churchill would have done the same had he won the 1945 election.” My landlady was indulging in fake news. Churchill had no such intention as the 1945 Conservative manifesto made it very clear and as he himself  did in his speech when Clement Atlee moved the bill giving India freedom.

Labour being in charge when India got freedom meant Indians saw Labour as the good party and voted for Labour in large numbers. There seemed no reason to vote Conservative. That position began to change when under Mrs Thatcher the growing prosperity of the Indian community, particularly those who had come from East Africa, meant that they turned away from being grateful for what had happened in 1947 to thinking of their economic interest. Mrs Thatcher it must be said had detached the Jews from their historic support for Labour and while she did not quite manage to do that with the Indians, nor try very hard, David Cameron, a child of Thatcher, did try and succeed.

 by . Most vivid evidence of this came in 2015 when Narendra Modi made his first visit to the UK after becoming Prime Minister. He was received by David Cameron in what amounted to a love fest at Wembley stadium. Cameron spoke a few words of Gujarati, he made constant references to Team UK-Team India bonding, of developing ties with India to attract investments and create jobs and his wife was dressed in a sari.

Cameron was helped by the fact that Labour had long neglected its Indian estate. Jeremy Corbyn emphasised this by deciding he had better things to do then listen to Modi address the Houses of Parliament, the first time an Indian Prime Minister had addressed the British parliament.

The Indian analysis of why Labour has fallen in love with India is that it has found a new, more important, electoral mistress: Muslims from Mirpur in Pakistan Kashmir who form a significant number in many Labour held seats, particularly in the north. As is well known these Kashmiri Muslims see India as a brutal colonial power which has annexed Kashmir. It was interesting that during the Modi-Cameron love fest at Wembley along Wembley’s Olympic Way there was a small group from Mirpur holding up a banner to remind the world of Indian atrocities. It read: 80,000 murders in Kashmir. Cameron would not have seen it and even if he had it would not have mattered for it is clear he and his advisers had long concluded there was no way the Tories can woo these Mirpuris. Far better to concentrate on the well-off Indians. Many of them may be Hindus but they were going to be Tory Hindus.  Once the Conservatives may have preferred Muslims and hated the Hindus, not any longer. This wooing of Indians by the Tories has also included overtures to Indian Muslims and these have paid off.

It is this alliance between the Indian diaspora and the Conservatives that explains why, in contrast to the US, the British government has not criticised what the Modi government has done, in fact said very little. Had Corbyn been in No 10 it is almost certain the Foreign Office would have had some very hard words to say about what India has done.

But while this is comforting for the Indian government they need to make sure that when the Indian diaspora are called upon to talk about Kashmir they do not sound as clueless as they have so far. They need a quick tutorial on what the issues are otherwise  the media will continue to make India look like an ogre as it has been ever since article 370 was revoked.

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Asian Lite Special Edition on Kashmir

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