Debbie Abrahams, a Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom from the Labour Party, has been denied entry to India by the government after her e-visa was cancelled. She chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Kashmir (AAPGK) and has been critical of India’s decision to abrogate Article 370 in August last year. Her aide, Harpreet Upal, told the Associated Press that her ‘valid Indian Visa’ was rejected. She had flown to the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi.
According to The Hindu, Debbie Abrahams was informed that her electronic visa-on-arrival had been cancelled prior to her arrival. According to the official, she was informed of the development before she flew to India. She represents the Oldham East & Saddleworth Constituency in the UK.
Abrahams said on Twitter, “I have Indian relatives who I was meant to be visiting with & have Indian members of staff accompanying me. The reason I got into politics is advance social justice & human rights FOR ALL. I will continue to challenge my own Government & others on these issues.” Her Visa apparently permitted her to “attend technical/business meetings,” and expired in October 2020.
In a statement, she said, “I tried to establish why the visa had been revoked and if I could get a ‘visa on arrival’ but no one seemed to know. Even the person who seemed to be in charge said he didn’t know and was really sorry about what had happened. So now I am just waiting to be deported. Unless the Indian Government has a change of heart. I’m prepared to let the fact that I’ve been treated like a criminal go, and I hope they will let me visit my family and friends.”
Following the abrogation of Article 370, Debbie Abrahams had written to the Indian High Commission in the UK the same day to “express grave concerns regarding the Indian Government’s proposed removal of Article 370 from their constitution, which grants special status to ‘Indian-controlled #Kashmir’.” She had also welcomed the “opportunity to meet with you to discuss the position of the Indian Government on ‘Indian controlled Kashmir’, and particularly regarding the proposed removal of Article 370, at your earliest convenience.”
In the letter to the Indian High Commissioner in the UK, she had said that if the Indians had read her letters from the 22nd of February to the 20th of June last year, “you will know that the APPGK has repeatedly reiterated our commitment to support a process of peace and reconciliation in Kashmir, on both sides of the line of control. The unilateral decision made by the Indian Government to remove Article 370 betrays the trust of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, dating back to the accession of 1947, and threatens to escalate tensions in the region even further.”
Debbie Abrahams had also proceeded to let the Indian High Commissioner know the contact details of her Head of Staff who could make all the diary arrangements. She had also said that she hoped to hear from the High Commissioner “by no later than 7th August”. We cannot confirm whether she received a reply “by no later than 7th August” or not but six months later, her Visa was cancelled by the Indian Government. She has also said that she has been trying to organize a visit to Kashmir with the Indian High Commission in London since October but has been unsuccessful.
The Indian Government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a hardline stance on foreign interference in the internal matters of India. Malaysia has had to pay the price for raking up the Kashmir issue at international forums. After threatening India with a trade war, the Malaysian Prime Minister said that his country is “too small” to take retaliatory action against India over the palm oil curbs. This was after the world’s largest buyer of edible oil, India, effectively stopped imports from its largest supplier and the world’s second-largest producer following Malaysian PM Mahathir’s deprecatory remarks against India regarding its internal policies pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir and the CAA.
Turkey, too, has had to suffer due to its comments against India on the Kashmir front. The Prime Minister had cancelled his proposed visit to Turkey following Erdogan’s comments on Kashmir. Earlier, India had also put a 2.3 billion naval deal with Turkey’s Andalou Shipyard on hold. The deal was for procuring five 45,000 tonne fleet support ships for the Indian Navy.
Debbie Abrahams belongs to the Labour Party which has made numerous incendiary remarks against India’s decision to abrogate Article 370. However, leading up to the UK General Elections, in which the Labour Party suffered a disastrous defeat, the Labour Party was forced to backtrack under pressure from the Indian diaspora and say that it was indeed a bilateral issue. Prominent Pakistan-origin people associated with the Labour Party and even several Labour party MPs in the UK were part of anti-India protests where Pakistanis attacked the Indian High Commission in the UK in September 2019 on abrogation of Article 370 in J&K.