New Delhi: A 10-member delegation of UK MPs that was to visit Delhi and Rajasthan has called off India trip after the Indian High Commission reportedly raised objections, British media reported.
According to a report in The Guardian, a high-powered UK delegation led by the Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, and his deputy was to visit India this week to try and influence India to take a pro-west stand on the ongoing Ukraine-Russia crisis.
Initially, the delegation was to visit to discuss the UK-India free trade deal, however, the purpose of their visit changed after Russia launched its special military operations in Ukraine in February. The 10-member delegation, involving lawmakers across parties, has been in discussion with India since January and was planning to visit Delhi and Rajasthan.
However, the Indian High Commission in Britain has raised objections at the last minute, leading to the cancellation of the tour, as per a report in The Guardian.
The Speaker-led delegation’s visit, the first such visit to India, was part of the British government’s diplomatic efforts to persuade India to take a stand against Russia and probably to join the Western nations in imposing sanctions against Russia has now been cancelled after the Indian government reportedly refused to entertain the British parliamentary delegation.
The specific reason cited for the cancellation of the British MPs’ tour to India is not clear yet, but it is being reported that the Modi government was not inclined to provide a platform for the UK delegation to discuss India’s foreign policy and its stand in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
So far, India, as a responsible global power, has taken a nuanced stand on the Ukraine-Russia crisis considering its own strategic interests. India has abstained from voting on the US-sponsored United Nations resolutions against Russia, with New Delhi saying dialogue is the only answer to settling differences and disputes.
At the same time, the Indian government has called both parties to adhere to UN Charter and international law while asking them to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.
However, the British government and the west want India to take a ‘more aggressive position’ on the Russia-Ukraine issue and condemn Russia. British PM Boris Johnson had also spoken with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to convince India to join the West in condemning Russia.
Several Western powers have been trying to persuade India to join the sanctions against Russia and at least vocally condemned Russia’s actions in Ukraine. But India has maintained neutrality in the conflict, asserting that its concerns are humanitarian and both parties should resolve issues via dialogue.
It is notable here that while pressurising India to take an anti-Russian stand, Western countries have continued to buy Russian oil and gas worth billions of dollars. Russia has been a trusted strategic partner for India through decades of war and conflict with neighbouring nations and is India’s main supplier of weapons.
This is not the first time that the Indian government has taken a serious stand against the British MPs’ actions to influence domestic politics and strategic interests. In fact, in February 2020, the Indian government had denied entry to Debbie Abrahams, a Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom from the Labour Party, after her e-visa was cancelled.
Abrahams, who chaired the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Kashmir (AAPGK), was critical of India’s decision to abrogate Article 370 in August 2019. She had flown to the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi. However, she was denied entry and sent back to her country.
Similarly, in 2018, British MP and lawyer Alexander Carlile was denied entry into the country as he arrived at the Delhi airport without an appropriate visa. According to the Ministry of External Affairs, he was trying to create problems in Indo-Bangladesh ties.