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London View: Making News, The Rahul Gandhi Way

Gandhi, who was on a visit to London, met Corbyn on Monday and the Indian Overseas Congress shared the picture of the two along with Sam Pitroda. Pic/Twitter

Gandhi, who was on a visit to London, met Corbyn on Monday and the Indian Overseas Congress shared the picture of the two along with Sam Pitroda. Pic/Twitter

Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with Jeremy Corbyn that he publicised actively is no move against the BJP; it was a move that could not but have sought to embarrass India itself

One undeniable consequence of Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with Jeremy Corbyn, the disowned former leader of the Labour party, is that it put him in the news — as it would, given Corbyn’s track record. Rahul Gandhi did not after all meet an MP such as Bob Blackman of the Conservative Party who has backed India firmly over Kashmir and particularly over the plight of Kashmiri Hindus.

A meeting with Blackman would have meant speaking with someone who has spoken for India, a good thing to do for India, but not one to generate controversy, and therefore news. And the media is where Rahul Gandhi has a life, considering the time and space he gets in the media in relation to the progressive fall of the Congress party through recent elections.

That meeting has ended in an inevitable dispute of the ding-dong kind. The Congress produced a picture showing a meeting between Jeremy Corbyn and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, supposedly holding a mirror to the glasshouse it says the BJP sits in. There are glaring differences between the two meetings, though. To consider those risks of being branded a BJP spokesperson, but the facts do speak for themselves, whoever may point to them or not.

Jeremy Corbyn had called on Modi in the course of a visit to India. He had concerns over Kashmir then no doubt, and the Indian government had sought to put its views across. All that came well before Corbyn launched the moves that showed his game up for what it is — or was — now that he is not a player anymore after leading the Labour party to a historic defeat. The Modi meeting came all of four years before Corbyn really launched his attacks on India.

Resolution

The rather ugly launch to those came when the Labour annual party conference passed a resolution in September 2019. That resolution did more than express concern over human rights; it included wild allegations against India, including the charge that the Indian government is organising mass rapes in the Kashmir valley. Labour called for its leader Corbyn to seek international observers to “enter” Kashmir to demand self-determination.

Labour leaders said Corbyn was behind the resolution. In any case, Corbyn said or did nothing to distance himself from it or to amend it in the face of an outcry that arose. A group of 130 Indian organisations in Britain wrote collectively to the Labour leadership in protest, representing hundreds and thousands of Indians in Britain.

Corbyn’s response was an election manifesto in which he declared that intervention in Kashmir in the line of that resolution would be the first international task of a newly elected Labour government under him. He was clearly pressing ahead with the policy declared in the resolution.

The Pakistani government showed its pleasure with Corbyn. In an official tweet, the Pakistani government said it would wish Jeremy Corbyn to be the next prime minister of Britain. Cosy tweeting has continued since between Corbyn and Imran Khan, prime minister of Pakistan till recently. Corbyn tweeted to say that he had in a conversation listened carefully to Khan’s views on Kashmir.

This is the only British MP that Rahul Gandhi sought out and met, and made a show of meeting.

Labour

The Labour party itself not only ousted Corbyn from its leadership but has distanced itself clearly from his views on Kashmir. “Any constitutional issues in India are a matter for the Indian Parliament, and Kashmir is a bilateral issue for India and Pakistan to resolve peacefully,” new Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said. “I am committed to working closely with Labour Friends of India to rebuild trust with the community. We must not allow issues of the subcontinent to divide communities here.”

Indians voted heavily against Labour in the election in which Corbyn had led the party. Most Indians here are really British citizens. They spoke, and voted, their support for India. The Labour party itself has embraced fresh ties with India. Corbyn is now an abandoned failure in politics because he holds the views he does. Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with Corbyn that he publicised actively is no move against the BJP; it was a move that could not but have sought to embarrass India itself.

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first published:May 26, 2022, 07:30 IST