India has not suspended trade talks with UK, officials say

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi hold a bilateral meeting on November 16, 2022 in Nusa Dua, Indonesia. Leon Neal/Pool via REUTERS

NEW DELHI – Trade talks between India and Britain have not been suspended and will continue this year, three officials said on Monday, (April 10, 2023) responding to a British newspaper report that said India had “disengaged” from the talks after London failed to condemn Sikh separatists.

An official in India’s foreign ministry said progress in the trade talks and New Delhi’s concerns around Sikh separatist activities in Britain should not be interlinked.

A diplomatic official in the British High Commission in New Delhi said trade talks will continue in a scheduled manner and security officials in London were addressing India’s concerns about Sikh separatist activities in Britain.

“Both the UK and India are committed to delivering an ambitious and mutually beneficial FTA and concluded the latest round of trade talks last month,” a spokesperson for Britain’s Department for Business and Trade said.

“The Foreign Secretary has condemned the recent acts of violence at the Indian High Commission, and we are working with the Metropolitan Police to review security and make changes to ensure the safety of its staff,” the spokesperson added.

New Delhi has been upset about protests and vandalism by Sikh separatists outside its mission in London and elsewhere in the United States and Canada.

Last month, protesters with banners supporting the so-called independent Sikh state of “Khalistan” staged a demonstration outside the Indian High Commission in London and took down an Indian flag from the building’s balcony to denounce recent police action against a pro-Khalistan Sikh preacher.

The demand for Khalistan has witnessed a revival in sections of the Sikh population in India and overseas.

India last month summoned the top British diplomat in New Delhi to convey its “strong protest” over the London incident.

The foreign ministry had later said India was not interested in assurances but would like to see action.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said acts of violence towards staff at the High Commission in London were unacceptable and British police were investigating.

The Times newspaper reported on Monday that India has “disengaged” from the talks after accusing Britain of failing to condemn a Sikh separatist group.

A second Indian foreign ministry source said that trade talks with Britain had not been suspended, and described the media report to be “baseless”.

In total, Britain and India have an around 29 billion pound ($35.5 billion) trading relationship, and expanding it is a major part of Britain’s Indo-Pacific foreign policy tilt, which aims to enhance ties with the region’s fast-growing economies.



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