THE High Commission of India in London has condemned false assertions in a “distinctly one-sided discussion” among a group of British parliamentarians on Monday on the issue of peaceful protests and press freedoms in India, amidst the ongoing farmers’ stir against three new laws on agricultural reforms. The Indian mission pointed out that foreign media, including British media, had been present and witnessed the events surrounding the farmers’ protests in India first-hand and therefore any “question of lack of freedom of the media in India does not arise.”
“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,” a statement issued by the High Commission said, following the debate which stemmed from an e-petition that attracted over 100,000 signatures on the parliamentary website. The mission said it would normally refrain from commenting on an internal discussion involving a small group of honourable parliamentarians in a limited quorum. “However, 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,” the statement said. It said that a false narrative over farmers’ protest was sought to be 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.”
The statement followed a group of around dozen cross-party British MPs debating issues around the “use of force” against protesters opposed to agricultural reforms in India and journalists being targeted while covering the protests taking place at several border points of Delhi for over 100 days. As the UK Government Minister deputed to respond to the debate, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) Minister Nigel Adams said the close UK-India relationship did not hinder the UK in any way from raising “difficult issues” with India, even as he reiterated the Government line that agricultural reforms are a “domestic matter” for India.
“This is a time of great ambition for the UK’s relationship with India. Both Governments are working to advance shared priorities across trade and investment, health, sustainability and climate change and defence and security,” said Adams. “We are also working with India as a force for good in the UN Security Council and as one of the Prime Minister’s (Boris Johnson) guest countries at the G7 summit later this year in June. This cooperation will help us fix global problems,” he said.