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UK MPs urge ministerial involvement over farmers’ stir

Parliamentarians from several parties write to foreign secretary, request talks with Jaishankar
Farmers during their protest at the Singhu border outside Delhi, on Thursday.
Farmers during their protest at the Singhu border outside Delhi, on Thursday.

Our Bureau, Agencies   |   London   |   Published 05.12.20, 08:46 PM

A group of 36 parliamentarians from various parties has written to United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, asking him to hold talks with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar, regarding the impact on British Punjabis affected by the demonstrations by farmers against new agricultural reforms in India.

India had earlier called the comments by foreign leaders on the protests ‘unwarranted’ and ‘ill-informed’, stating that the issue pertains to the internal affairs of a democratic country.

The letter, drafted by British Sikh Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi and signed by other Indian-origin MPs including Labour's Virendra Sharma, Seema Malhotra and Valerie Vaz as well as former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn, has been issued on Friday.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said the department has not received the letter as yet.

“The police handling of protests is a matter for the government of India,” a spokesperson of the department said.

The letter in question urges the minister to hold an urgent meeting with them to discuss the deteriorating situation in Punjab and seeks an update on any communication the FCDO has had with the Indian government on the issue.

“This is a joint letter calling for representation to be made by yourself to your Indian counterpart about the impact on British Sikhs and Punjabis, with longstanding links to land and farming in India,” it reads.

“This is an issue of particular concern to Sikhs in the UK and those linked to Punjab, although it also heavily impacts on other Indian states. Many British Sikhs and Punjabis have taken this matter up with their MPs, as they are directly affected with family members and ancestral land in Punjab,” the letter adds.

External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava on Tuesday said regarding the comments of the foreign leaders, “We have seen some ill-informed comments relating to farmers in India. Such comments are unwarranted, especially when pertaining to the internal affairs of a democratic country.”

“It is also best that diplomatic conversations are not misrepresented for political purposes,” the MEA added in a stern message.

The latest intervention by British MPs follows Dhesi and other politicians taking to social media to express support for the farmers. Lord Indarjit Singh, a crossbench peer in the House of Lords, also raised the issue in the Upper House of Parliament earlier this week.

The UK Cabinet Office minister responding in the House, Lord Nicholas True, refused to address a broad denunciation of any nation, adding,”Our values are democratic; they are very widely shared and practised across the world. We wish to sustain that.”

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