• Tuesday, November 28, 2023

HEADLINE STORY

New foreign secretary Cameron faces India’s pressure over London mission protests

The handling of the protest by the police and the ensuing investigation has become a sensitive issue in Indian-British relations

Britain’s Foreign Secretary David Cameron arrives at Downing Street in London, Britain, November 14, 2023. REUTERS/Hannah McKay

By: Kimberly Rodrigues

The UK is facing increased pressure to contribute additional evidence against individuals linked to the protests outside the Indian High Commission in London in March.

This urging coincides with a meeting between the new foreign secretary, David Cameron, and the Indian external affairs minister, S Jaishankar.

Jaishankar is supporting the requests from the Indian National Investigation Agency (NIA) for enhanced collaboration in addressing those responsible for the violence, The Guardian reported.

The handling of the protest by the police and the ensuing investigation has become a sensitive issue in Indian-British relations.

However, both sides deny that it is impeding progress in the Indian-British free trade talks. Despite the controversy, Cameron is keen on fostering strong relations with India.

During his premiership, Cameron actively worked to strengthen ties, exemplified by inviting the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, for a three-day state visit in 2015.

During his five-day visit to the UK, which included Diwali celebrations, Jaishankar, engaged in bilateral meetings, with not only Cameron but with defence secretary Grant Shapps, home secretary James Cleverly, and former prime minister Tony Blair.

The NIA has formally requested assistance from the UK under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) regarding the specific details about the suspects and their associates involved in the protests outside the Indian high commission in London.

According to a source, the Indian government has sent 24 queries related to the protest organisers, their credentials, and permissions under the MLAT.

India suggests a potential link to terrorism and Pakistan’s intelligence services.

As part of the MLAT, both India and the UK can seek assistance in gathering evidence against accused individuals. India contends that the demonstration was orchestrated by pro-Khalistan extremists, some of whom attempted to tear down the Indian flag by scaling the high commission building.

The NIA has shared images of the suspects, emphasising that at least one official was injured during the demonstration, which involved objects being thrown at the building and windows being shattered.

Despite this tension, the two nations maintain a comprehensive strategic partnership launched in 2021, along with an India-UK roadmap to 2030.

After 13 rounds of negotiations on a free trade agreement, the UK and India have yet to find common ground, with a January deadline for a pause in talks due to an upcoming Indian election campaign.

Several crucial issues, including intellectual property rights, rules of origin, financial services, work visas, and tariff reductions on essential items, remain unresolved in the discussions.

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