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UK says India trade talks 'continue as before' amid Canada allegations.

Date: 21-09-2023
Subject: UK says India trade talks 'continue as before' amid Canada allegations
LONDON: The UK government said on Tuesday that the "serious allegations" over the murder of a Sikh separatist leader in Canada will not impact its own ongoing trade negotiations with India.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's spokesperson at 10 Downing Street in London was asked about the impact the India-Canada diplomatic row may have on India-UK bilateral relations, after a government spokesperson said the UK remains in "close touch" with the Canadian authorities over the issue.

India and the UK have been negotiating a free trade agreement (FTA) since last year, completing 12 rounds towards a pact aimed at significantly enhancing the estimated GBP 36-billion bilateral trade partnership.

"Work on the trade negotiations will continue as before,” Sunak's spokesperson told reporters.

Asked whether it was appropriate to pursue a trade deal given the allegations, the PM's spokesperson said "it's important not to get ahead of the work that our Canadian partners are doing in regard to this allegation".

"India have put out their own statement on this. For our part, when we have concerns with countries we're negotiating trade deals with, we'll raise them directly,” the spokesperson said, adding that the UK was “not looking to conflate these issues”.

It follows Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's statement in Parliament on Monday that the authorities are “actively pursuing credible allegations" related to Indian government involvement in the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the Chief of Khalistan Tiger Force and a designated terrorist, in British Columbia in June.

In an emergency statement to the House of Commons in Ottawa, Trudeau said that any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen was "an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty".

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has strongly rejected the claims as “absurd and motivated” and dismissed a senior Canadian diplomat in a reciprocal move.

“Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The inaction of the Canadian government on this matter has been a long-standing and continuing concern,” the MEA statement said.

Earlier on Tuesday, a UK government spokesperson said Britain is in close touch with the Canadian authorities over the issue but declined to comment further.

“We are in close touch with our Canadian partners about these serious allegations. It would be inappropriate to comment further during the ongoing investigation by the Canadian authorities,” the UK government spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, some UK-based diaspora groups have been reacting to the development, with the Friends of India Society International (FISI) UK saying the “allegations are just attempts to divert attention from Canada's lack of decisive action in promptly and effectively addressing all anti-India elements operating on its soil”.

Lord Indarjit Singh, an Indian-origin peer and director of the Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) UK, described Trudeau's actions as “standing up for the human rights of his citizens before trade”.

Back in June, UK-based prominent Khalistani activist Avtar Singh Khanda died aged 35 at a hospital in the city of Birmingham in the West Midlands region of England. Following speculation, the local West Midlands Police stated there were “no suspicious circumstances” surrounding the death.

Source Name : Economic Times

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