External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s visit to London included discussions on Khalistani separatist activity in the U.K., with the newly appointed Home Secretary James Cleverly and the National Security Adviser Tim Barrow. Specifically, Mr Jaishankar has denied a claim in a November 14 report in The Guardian which stated he pressured newly appointed U.K. Foreign Secretary David Cameron, on information about Khalistani activists who were involved with protests around the Indian High Commission in London on March 19 this year, when there were incidents of vandalism at the building.
At least two news organisations had reported that India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) had asked the U.K. for information on suspects by invoking the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).
Speaking to the Indian press corps at the conclusion of his visit to the U.K. on Wednesday, the Mr. Jaishankar said he had not discussed the Khalistani issue with Mr Cameron, whom Mr Jaishankar met on November 13, shortly after Mr. Cameron, who is also the country’s former Prime Minister, had been appointed Foreign Secretary.
However, Mr. Jaishankar confirmed that he had discussed the issue with James Cleverly (who had switched portfolios from the Foreign Ministry to the Home ministry on Monday morning) and with National Security Adviser Tim Barrow, whom the Minister met on November 15.
During his meeting with Mr. Cleverly, Mr. Jaishankar said he had discussed “extremist” activity in the U.K., and the security of India’s diplomats and the High Commission.
With Mr. Cameron the discussion was centered around regional and global issues – the Indo-Pacific, the situation in West Asia and Ukraine.
Speaking about the protests in front of the Indian High Commission earlier this year, including the events of March 19, when the national flag from the proprty was taken down by protestors, Mr. Jaishankar said “the gravity of the situation is sharply recognized” and that “some steps have been taken” by the U.K. authorities. He was responding to a question from The Hindu on whether the U.K.’s responsiveness to India’s demands about security for its properties and personnel had changed since March. India had pressed the U.K. for greater security for its personnel and properties in the spring of this year and had lowered the security provided for British High Commissioner to India Alex Ellis in retaliation.
The External Affairs Minister said the entire situation with Khalistani separatist activity was not static but a continuing issue with different dimensions and that it was the government’s expectation that the U.K. government would protect their diplomatic missions and let diplomats carry out their activities freely.
No timeline on trade deal completion
On whether the next and 14th round of trade negotiations would be the final one, Mr. Jaishankar said that the Indian and British sides were aware of the importance of a trade deal and have made “substantial progress” but he did not to commit to a timeline by when negotiations would be complete.