India on Tuesday, 9 March, summoned the British High Commissioner and conveyed "strong opposition to the unwarranted and tendentious discussion on agricultural reforms in India in the British Parliament," the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
The foreign secretary, who summoned the British envoy, "made clear that this represented a gross interference in politics of another democratic country." "He advised that British MPs should refrain from practicing vote bank politics by misrepresenting events, especially in relation to another fellow democracy," the MEA statement added.
Earlier, India's High Commission in London had condemned the debate among some British lawmakers on an e-petition pertaining to farmers' right to peacefully protest and press freedom in India.
"“We deeply regret that rather than a balanced debate, false assertions – without substantiation or facts – were made, casting aspersions on the largest functioning democracy in the world and its institutions.” " - India’s High Commission in London
THE DEBATE IN THE UK PARLIAMENT
According to PTI, the debate took place after an e-petition titled, “Urge the Indian government to ensure the safety of protesters and press freedom,” received 1,00,000 signatures and was approved by the House of Commons Petition Committee.
During the debate, a group comprising approximately a dozen cross-party members of the British Parliament discussed the alleged “use of force” against those protesting the agricultural reforms in India and scribes being targeted for reporting the protests.
According to PTI, British government minister deputed to respond to the debate, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Minister Nigel Adams reiterated the government line, that agricultural reforms are a "domestic matter" for India, but also said that the close UK-India relationship did not hinder the UK in any way from raising difficult issues with India.
Adams also reportedly said that “candid discussions” on a range of issues will form part of Boris Johnson’s planned visit to India in the coming months.
Acknowledging the “alarm and uncertainty” caused among British communities with family ties in India, Adams expressed hope that the the ongoing dialogue between the Indian government and farmers’ unions will yield positive results.
Meanwhile, Virendra Sharma, the Opposition Labour MP for Ealing Southall in West London, with a large Punjabi diaspora, sought to counsel both the Indian government and agitating farmers to reach an agreement over the issue.
HOW DID INDIA’S HIGH COMMISSION REACT?
According to PTI, the High Commission claimed it was forced to react to the lawmakers’ debate due to the aspersions cast on India.
“…. 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.”
Further, the Indian High Commission said that a “question of lack of freedom of the media in India does not arise,” and also alleged that a false narrative over farmers’ protest was being developed even 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.”
On Saturday, 6 March, farmers carried out a five-hour peaceful blockade to mark the 100th day of protests against the three new farm laws.
Thousands of farmers, many of whom are from the northern states of India, have been agitating against the introduction of the controversial farm laws, since September 2020. The protests have been focused around the borders of Delhi-NCR since late November.
(With inputs from PTI.)
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