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India denies halting trade talks with UK – Reuters

The Times previously claimed that New Delhi had suspended negotiations and demanded that Britain condemn a Sikh extremist group

India has denied claims that it has stalled trade negotiations with the UK over London’s apparent refusal to condemn a Sikh extremist group. New Delhi has branded the accusations “baseless,” Reuters reported on Monday, citing officials. 

The Times claimed that Indian officials had “disengaged” from trade talks after accusing Britain of failing to condemn a Sikh extremist group that attacked the Indian High Commission in London last month. 

The attack was carried out by supporters of the Khalistan movement, which has called for a sovereign Sikh state in the Punjab region of India. On March 19, members of the group allegedly injured two security guards and smashed windows at the Indian High Commission building in London, also pulling down the Indian flag. 

At the time, New Delhi accused London of failing to fulfill “basic obligations” to protect foreign diplomatic missions under the Vienna Convention. The Indian Foreign Ministry also summoned the UK’s most senior diplomat in New Delhi to lodge a protest, and demanded explanations “for the complete absence of the British security that allowed these elements to enter the High Commission premises.” 

While the UK condemned the attack, a senior British government source allegedly told The Times that India wanted London to issue a public condemnation of the Khalistan movement.  

“Indians don’t want to talk about trade until they get a very public demonstration of condemnation of Khalistan extremism in the UK. I wouldn’t underestimate the strength of feeling on this. They’re expecting the government to say something on Sikh extremism before they come back to the table seriously,” the unnamed source told the outlet. 

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India scolds UK for diplomatic ‘indifference’

However, an Indian Foreign Ministry source told Reuters on Monday that trade talks with Britain had not been suspended, and that The Times’ report was “baseless.” He argued that New Delhi’s concerns over Sikh separatists and trade talks should not be interlinked. 

Another source told the agency that talks with India on trade agreements were continuing as scheduled, and that security officials in London were addressing India’s concerns about Sikh separatist activities.  

“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 told Reuters.  

He added that the Metropolitan Police is reviewing security and making changes to ensure the safety of staff at the Indian High Commission in London.

April 10, 2023 at 04:36PM

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