Jaishankar raises pro-Khalistani extremism with UK leaders
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar raised India's longstanding concerns regarding pro-Khalistani extremism in Britain with the country's top leaders and urged them to be on guard for the misuse of freedom of expression and speech.
Concluding his five-day visit to the UK on Wednesday, Jaishankar described it as “timely” after various cross-party engagements amidst substantial progress on the free trade agreement negotiations, news agency PTI reported.
“We have long-standing concerns about extremist and sometimes even violent activities of various forces, including those who propagate Khalistan,” Jaishankar said.
In his meeting with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Jaishankar extended best wishes on behalf of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The duo expressed satisfaction with the positive momentum in strengthening the India-UK relationship and recognised it as a crucial element in addressing challenges.
Sunak and Jaishankar reviewed the implementation of Roadmap 2030 and discussed the negotiations for an India-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as stated in a press release by the Ministry of External Affairs on Thursday.
Before his departure, during a media interaction at the High Commission of India in London, Jaishankar shared insights from his discussions with cabinet ministers and Opposition leaders in the UK and talked about a wide range of global and bilateral issues.
Among the topics addressed during his meetings with UK Home Secretary James Cleverly and National Security Adviser (NSA) Tim Barrow were India's concerns about pro-Khalistan extremism and its impact on the safety of its diplomats in the country.
“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,” Jaishankar said.
Talking about the violent protests at India House in March, Jaishankar said that the “gravity of the situation is sharply recognised” and that India expected its diplomatic mission to be provided requisite protection in order to conduct their activities in a way that is unrestricted.
He added that India hopes there to be a “firm stance against the advocacy of violence and extremism”.
The MEA said that in his meeting with Home Secretary Cleverly, the two “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”.
Speaking about the upcoming 14th round of negotiations on the FTA, Jaishankar said, “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.”
Being the first Indian minister to hold one-on-one talks with the newly appointed UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron, Jaishankar said that they spoke about a range of regional issues including the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the Israel-Hamas conflict in West Asia.
Upon meeting Sunak at 10 Downing Street, Jaishankar had gifted the UK Prime Minister a cricket bat, which was signed by Indian cricketer Virat Kohli.
Jaishankar said, “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.”
Jaishankar further in his address, highlighted the nature of the bilateral relationship among the two countries and reflected on his discussions with Opposition Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer as well as the shadow foreign secretary David Lammy.
Jaishankar's final engagement was an in-conversation session — ‘How a billion people see the world' — and was organised by Wilton Park at London's Royal Over-Seas League during which he spoke about a broad range of issues, including the “momentum” behind India's growth, the realities of relations with China as well as 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 MEA said in a press release.