We are living in a time of troubles

Kashmir solidarity meeting  at Cathedral Square EMN-190814-161052009
Kashmir solidarity meeting at Cathedral Square EMN-190814-161052009

I was gratified by the turnout for the various events throughout Peterborough in support of the people of Kashmir. Politicians from all parties have participated. I’m glad our MP, Lisa Forbes, has been particularly helpful by writing to the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, writes leader of the Labour group on Peterborough City Council, cllr Shaz Nawaz.

Personally, I believe the government is too focused on Brexit to have any bandwidth to help. Also, they may be more concerned about future trade deals with India. Nevertheless, it was important just the same to try and prod them into action.

India’s actions in Kashmir are striking and appalling. They ripped up Article 370 of the Indian constitution which guaranteed the autonomy of Kashmir; under normal circumstances that could only be done with the consent of the Kashmir government. However, Kashmir is in a state of legislative limbo comparable to what is going on in Northern Ireland, thus the Indian government took the decision on their behalf. Troops were sent in; the region has had a communications blackout imposed. No telephone, no internet, no mobile. This incursion into Kashmir occurred around the time of the most sacred festival in Islam, Eid al-Adha.

People were unable to go to the shops. This incursion also occurred near to the celebration of Pakistan’s Independence Day; given the tension that exists between India and Pakistan regarding the status of this region, the timing could scarcely be more provocative.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong is presently being rocked by protests. Pro-democracy demonstrators got into the airport and many flights were cancelled. It may very well be that Beijing runs out of patience and sends in police from mainland China or indeed, the army.

Furthermore, the economic news is not particularly good. A leading indicator of economic health comes from the bond markets. The yield on long term government debt (bonds) has inverted, whereby it’s the long-term debt that has lower interest rates than short-term debt. That indicates that investors are putting their money where it is safe. It is the equivalent of sticking cash under a mattress.

It’s clear that these are troubled times. It’s a pity that often there is a lack of leadership to mitigate against them. We here in Peterborough should take a good look at the world around us and start thinking in terms of resilience. If we believe that the world economy is softening, then we should have a plan ready to stimulate business activity; we should encourage more individual start-ups and invest the city’s money to support small local businesses. We should have ethical procurement policies: Peterborough council could make it clear that it will use its procurement policies, where applicable, to support human rights.

It is not everything, and we will be rocked by the tides that wash across the world, but we can do something. We can stand up for our values and put up defences against this time of troubles. I would ask the current administration: What are you doing about this right now?