New Delhi: The BJP on Thursday lashed out at the Congress over its "shameful shenanigans" and demanded an explanation after the UK unit of the Indian Overseas Congress met Opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn in London and reportedly held talks over the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.
According to the Labour leader, the "very productive" talks involved a discussion on the human rights situation in Kashmir after the revocation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August.
A very productive meeting with UK representatives from the Indian Congress Party where we discussed the human rights situation in Kashmir.There must be a de-escalation and an end to the cycle of violence and fear which has plagued the region for so long. pic.twitter.com/wn8DXLohJT— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) October 9, 2019
Corbyn has been under pressure from Indian diaspora groups in Britain since the Labour Party passed a resolution against the Indian government's August 5 decision to revoke Article 370 to withdraw the special status accorded to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, perceived as anti-India with its call for international intervention in the region.
"There must be a de-escalation and an end to the cycle of violence and fear which has plagued the region for so long," said Corbyn's statement, alongside an image of him joined by Labour's shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry with a group of Congress Party UK delegates.
The Labour Party leader, whose stand on Kashmir has not gone down well with the Indian government, also tweeted a picture of the meeting. It included Kamal Dhaliwal, who heads the overseas Congress in the UK.
Describing the move as "appalling", the BJP said that the Congress "owes it to the people of India to explain what its leaders are telling foreign leaders about India".
Appalling! @INCIndia owes it to the people of India to explain what its leaders are telling foreign leaders about India.India will give a befitting reply to Congress for these shameful shenanigans! https://t.co/Sb0MThF17A— BJP (@BJP4India) October 10, 2019
The saffron party's foreign affairs department in-charge Vijay Chauthaiwale said, "This is Congress seeking advice from the UK Labour Leader - they might as well go to their masters directly in Pakistan."
The UK unit of the Indian Overseas Congress said it had gone to meet Corbyn to condemn the Kashmir resolution passed by his party and reiterate to them that Jammu and Kashmir is an internal matter and no intervention will be accepted.
"Our meeting with Jeremy Corbyn was held to condemn the Kashmir resolution passed by his Party and to reiterate that J&K is an internal matter and outside intervention will not be accepted. BJP's malicious statements are another attempt to distract people from their failures," the Indian Overseas Congress said in a tweet.
The Congress party accused the BJP of making "malicious statements" to distract people from its failures.
.@BJP4India has failed to answer a single question on the economic slowdown, rising unemployment, banking crisis & even the irregularities in the Rafale deal. Therefore they have to resort to spreading lies to evade the truth. They can't hide behind their propaganda anymore. https://t.co/oUyn55Kh26— Congress (@INCIndia) October 10, 2019
Congress Rajya Sabha MP Anand Sharma, who is the Chairman of the party's Foreign Affairs department, told reporters it "disowned" any claim made at the meeting in its entirety. "We are shocked by this misrepresentation. Any issue pertaining to Jammu & Kashmir is purely India's internal affairs," he said.
Sharma said the delegation, or for that matter any committee or chapter of the Indian Overseas Congress, has neither a mandate nor any authorisation to speak on behalf of the Congress party on any matter which pertains to policy or India's domestic issues. They are supposed to be only confined to the Indian diaspora, he said.
The Congress position is firm, consistent and clear, as articulated in our working committee resolution of August 6, he said, adding any issue pertaining to the state of Jammu and Kashmir is purely India's internal affairs.
"So what the Congress party has to say is communicated officially here(in India) and no other entity, individual or a body, has any authority to do so. We disown any such claim in entirety. I am conveying this to the leadership of the Labour party and to Barry Gardener, who heads the foreign affairs department of Labour Party to convey this to Jeremy Corbyn."
Sharma also said that the Congress party will never discuss India's internal issues with outsiders.
Labour resolution last month
The discussions between Corbyn and Indian representatives came despite efforts by the Labour Friends of India (LFIN) group within the party urging Corbyn and Thornberry for a meeting to consider withdrawing the resolution passed at its conference last month.
"We have concerns about the procedure for the selection of the motion, the quality of the evidence that backed it up, the lack of a balanced debate on the subject, and its ultimate selection and adoption," read a letter issued last week by LFIN - a group co-chaired by London's Indian-origin Deputy Mayor for Business Rajesh Agrawal and Darren Jones MP.
LFIN was among the groups that felt the brunt of the resolution's aftermath as the Indian mission in London cancelled participation in a proposed annual reception and even the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued a harsh rebuke over the uninformed and unfounded motion.
Other Indian-origin Labour Party MPs have also voiced their concerns over the issue, with Leicester-based MP Keith Vaz saying it had caused "unnecessary distress and division within the party and the country" as he wrote to Corbyn to recall the motion.
Fellow Indian-origin veteran Labour MP, Virendra Sharma, also described the matter as a domestic issue, which should not involve the party's intervention.
Sharma said, “Matters surrounding Kashmir and Article 370 are a matter for India internally, it is not for the Labour Party to decide. This is a domestic issue which needs resolving within Indian law and the Constitution. Kashmir has been an integral part of India since 1947 and it is a matter for only the population of Kashmir to decide where they live."
The Labour Party resolution tabled at its annual party conference in Brighton and passed on September 26 called on Corbyn to meet the high commissioners of both India and Pakistan to ensure there is "mediation" and restoration of peace and normality to prevent a potential nuclear conflict.
India has categorically told the international community that its move on Kashmir was an internal matter. India maintains Kashmir is a bilateral issue and no third party has any role in it.
(With inputs from PTI)