Safety of diplomats discussed
LONDON, Nov 16:
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has raised India’s long-standing concerns about pro-Khalistan extremism in the UK during his meetings with the country’s top leaders, stressing that they should be on guard against the misuse of freedom of expression and speech.
Jaishankar concluded his five-day visit to the UK on Wednesday, which he described as “timely” after a series of cross-party engagements amid “substantial progress” on the ongoing free trade agreement negotiations.
During his meeting with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Jaishankar conveyed best wishes on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Sunak and Jaishankar expressed satisfaction at positive momentum in enhancing the India-UK relationship as an important factor in addressing contemporary challenges.
They also reviewed implementation of Roadmap 2030 and discussed ongoing negotiations for a India-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the Ministry of External Affairs said in a press release today.
During a media interaction at the High Commission of India in London before leaving, Jaishankar shared some insights from his discussions with the UK Cabinet Ministers and Opposition leaders which covered a whole spectrum of global and bilateral issues.
India’s concerns regarding pro-Khalistan extremism in relation to the safety of its diplomats in the country were among the topics that came up during his meetings with UK Home Secretary James Cleverly and National Security Adviser (NSA) Tim Barrow.
“We have long-standing concerns about extremist and sometimes even violent activities of various forces, including those who propagate Khalistan,” said Jaishankar.
“We have been trying to get the Government here to understand that while we as a fellow democracy certainly understand the importance of freedom of expression, and of speech, they should be on guard against the misuse of these freedoms,” he said.
With reference to the violent protests at India House in March, he said the “gravity of the situation is sharply recognised” and India’s expectation is that its diplomatic mission would be provided requisite protection to conduct their activities in an unrestricted way and there would be a “firm stance against the advocacy of violence and extremism”.
During his meeting with Home Secretary Cleverly, the two leaders “underscored the need for close collaboration on combating violent extremism and radicalism and agreed to deepen and expand dialogue on these and other shared concerns,” the MEA said.
Asked if the upcoming 14th round of negotiations on the FTA is likely to be the final one, Jaishankar told reporters, “We have made substantial progress, but I don’t think it would be prudent of me to make predictions or to put timelines. I think both sides are very aware of the importance of the FTA and will make the utmost effort to get there. So, we have to take it as it happens.”
As the first Minister to hold bilateral talks with the newly appointed UK Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, Jaishankar said they covered a range of regional issues such as the Russia-Ukraine conflict and also the Israel-Hamas conflict in West Asia.
He also shared that Cameron presented him with a cricket bat signed by both England and Indian cricket teams, a gift he described as “very special”.
Earlier, during his meeting with Prime Minister Sunak at 10, Downing Street on Sunday, he had gifted the UK Prime Minister a cricket bat signed by batting legend Virat Kohli.
“Overall, I would say this visit was timely, and much needed because these personal interactions do a lot in really developing an understanding between countries. I was very satisfied, the British system made an effort to engage at all the relevant levels from the Prime Minister downwards, and that itself is a statement of the closeness of our ties today,” he said.
Jaishankar also highlighted the bipartisan nature of the bilateral relationship, reflecting on his very wide-ranging discussions with Opposition Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer and shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy.
His final engagement was an in-conversation session entitled ‘How a billion people see the world’ organised by Wilton Park at the Royal Over-Seas League in London during which he covered a broad range of topics, including the “momentum” behind India’s growth story, realities of the relations with China and the rise of a “more authentic” India.
“The visit further consolidated the long-standing historical ties between the two countries and provided a new impetus to bilateral cooperation in diverse areas against the backdrop of progress on the India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, and Roadmap 2030,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a press release. (PTI)
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