Updated: December 17, 2020 7:18:43 am
A day after he announced that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would be chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations in January, visiting British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Wednesday that he had “discussed” the situation arising out of the farmer protests with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar. He underlined that “your politics” is, in some sense, “our politics” because of the Indian diaspora in Britain.
Raab, who also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, told a group of journalists that India has a “vibrant heritage of peaceful protests”, and the UK “respects it”.
Following their meeting, Modi, in a Twitter post said, “Excellent meeting with @DominicRaab, UK Secretary of State of @FCDOGovUK. Discussed the vast potential of the India-UK partnership in the post-COVID, post-BREXIT world. Looking forward to next month’s visit by PM @BorisJohnson as Chief Guest at our Republic Day celebrations.”
Responding to questions on the farmer protests, Raab said, “I discussed the situation with Foreign Minister Jaishankar and obviously, we respect the fact that the reforms going through your system here are domestic reforms. Of course, they have elicited the protests that you refer to, and your politics, in some sense, because of the Indian diaspora in Britain, is our politics. But I think, India, as well as having a market-driven economy, also has a vibrant heritage of peaceful protests and vigorous debate, and we watch that with interest and we respect it.”
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British MPs of Indian origin have raised the issue of farmer protests in the British parliament.
Asked about China’s rise and its belligerence in the Indo-Pacific region and the India-China border, Raab was cautious in his response. He said the rise of China provides strategic context and there are “opportunities” as well as “challenges” and “risks”.
He spoke on the UK’s strategy with “Indo-Pacific tilt”, which is about being “more engaged in grasping opportunities, but also more engaged in managing some of the challenges and the pressures”.
He said the UK and India can cooperate on “cyber, and countering misinformation” and in the “maritime sphere”.
On the Indo-Pacific region, he said he had discussed it with Prime Minister Modi. Describing India as “a partner and a friend”, he said there would be a “step change” in cooperation and collaboration.
On the prospect of an India-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA) when Johnson visits India next month, Raab did not go into specifics, but said the “levels of ambition are very high” across the entire bilateral relationship.
On the extradition of fugitives, he said there are still some “legal issues outstanding” which are “independent from politics or political intervention”. He, however, said, “We would like to see those expedited as swiftly as possible.”
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