LONDON: Despite the UK High Commission dismissing a debate in the Westminster Hall of the House of Commons on an e-petition relating to press freedom and safety of protestors in India, the UK Minister of State Nigel Adams has made it clear that the issue will remain on the agenda at all high-level UK-India interactions.
The High Commission steered clear of the Minister’s observations, and instead criticized the debate for being “without substantiation or facts” and “casting aspersions on the largest functioning democracy in the world, and its institutions”.
The Minister described the current period as an “exciting time for UK-India partnership” which, however, “does not hinder our raising difficult issues”.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s upcoming visit to India would be an opportunity to discuss a range of bilateral issues with India.
“Where we have serious and specific concerns, we will raise them directly with the Indian Government, as would be expected of a friend and neighbour. Candid discussions are an important part of our mature and wide-ranging relationship with the Indian Government,” said Adams.
Indicating that it did not concur with the application of force and other measures on the farmers’ stir, the Minister said: “We look to the Indian Government to uphold the freedoms and rights guaranteed to the Indian people by the constitution and by the international instruments to which India is party’’.
The Minister also pointed out that Minister of State for UN and South Asia Tariq Mahmood Ahmad have been regularly discussing with his Indian counterpart V Muraleedharan.
The Indian High Commission has reason to be piqued as only one out of a dozen MPs stuck only to the talking points that have been circulated by the MEA to its missions abroad.
Barring backbencher Theresa Villiers, none of the other dozen MPs were in sympathy with the Indian Government’s position.
In fact, Labour and Scottish Nationalist Party stalwarts such as Jeremy Corbyn, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Martyn Day, and Stephen Kinnock were joined in their criticism of New Delhi’s handling of farers protests by MPs from across parties including Khalid Mehmood, Nadia Whittome, Paul Bristow, Pat McFadden, Virendra Sharma, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, Layla Moran, Seema Malhotra, John McDonell, and Brendon O’Hara.
The Indian High Commission described their observations over farmers’ protest as “a false narrative” though “the High Commission of India has been, over a period of time, taking care to inform all concerned about the issues raised in the petition”.
The High Commission also dismissed claims of affinity with India by some MPs.
“When aspersions are cast on India by anyone, irrespective of their claims of friendship and love for India or domestic political compulsions, there is a need to set the record straight”, said the High Commission statement.
However, the British Minister was silent on the demand to impose sanctions on officials who have committed serious human rights violations or abuses.
“It is not appropriate to speculate on who may be designated under the regime in the future, as to do so could very well reduce their impact”, said Adams.