A group of 36 cross-party parliamentarians have written to UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab asking him to make representations with his Indian counterpart, S Jaishankar, about the impact on British Punjabis affected by the demonstrations by farmers against new agricultural reforms in India.
The letter, issued on Friday, has been 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.
India has called the remarks by foreign leaders and politicians on protests by farmers as “ill-informed” and “unwarranted” as the matter pertained to the internal affairs of a democratic country.
The letter from the parliamentarians urges the minister to set up an urgent meeting with them to discuss the “deteriorating situation in Punjab” and seeks an update on any communication the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (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,” reads the letter.
“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,” it reads.
The FCDO is yet to respond to the letter or with an official statement on the matter.
Reacting to the comments by the foreign leaders, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Anurag Srivastava on Tuesday said, “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.”
In a terse message, the ministry added that “it is also best that diplomatic conversations are not misrepresented for political purposes.”
The latest intervention by British MPs follows Mr 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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