“Baseless,” India denies reports of halting trade talks with UK over London High Commission attack

New Delhi [India], April 10 (ANI): India dismissed as “baseless” reports in British media stating that it had halted talks for a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom over the attack on the Indian high commission in London last month, government sources said on Monday.
London-based newspaper The Times in its April 10 edition citing senior British government sources reported that the Indian government has “disengaged” from trade talks and made it clear that there would be no progress “without a public condemnation of the Khalistan movement.” An Indian government source has “denied” the UK publication’s report and termed it as “baseless.”
The India-UK Free Trade Agreement talks were launched on June 17, 2022,
“Indians don’t want to talk about trade until they get a very public demonstration of the condemnation of Khalistan extremism in the UK,” The Times quoted a British official statement saying.
On March 19 this year, protesters holding Khalistan banners staged a demonstration outside the High Commission in London. One of the protestors climbed up its balcony and pulled down the Indian national flag of India. The protest was being held to denounce the recent police action in Punjab.
In a video of the incident, which has since gone viral on social media, a protestor is seen on the balcony attempting to bring down the Indian flag. At the end of the video, another man is seen reaching the balcony and wresting the Tricolour back from the Khalistan supporter.
The British High Commissioner Alex Ellis condemned the attack on the Indian High Commission in the United Kingdom as “disgraceful acts” and called it totally unacceptable.
New Delhi also had summoned the senior-most British diplomat UK diplomat, deputy high commissioner Christina Scott, to lodge a protest.
“It is expected that the UK Government would take immediate steps to identify, arrest and prosecute each one of those involved in today’s incident, and put in place stringent measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents,” according to an official press release by the Minstry of External Affairs (MEA).
MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had recently said that India expects to see more action, than just assurance and hoped that foreign governments will act against and prosecute those involved in the incident.
“On the issues of security, whenever we feel there is an issue relating to the security of our missions abroad, high commissions and embassies, this issue is taken up. Whenever we have concerns where we feel that there will be some activities that may harm our interests, we do take it up,” he said while answering a media query on the vandalism.
Khalistan supporters also allegedly attacked Indian Consulate in San Francisco (SFO). Videos of supporters breaking the doors and barging into the office surfaced on social media.
Though visuals of the vandalism at the San Francisco consulate have been doing the rounds of social media, the incident is yet to be confirmed by Indian officials.
While the visuals confirmed that the incident happened at the consulate, the date could not be ascertained.
Visuals shared online show a sizeable mob brandishing Khalistan flags and mounted on wooden poles, using them to smash glass doors and windows of the consulate building. Raising pro-Khalistan slogans, they broke through makeshift security barriers raised by the city police and installed two Khalistani flags inside the premises.
Meanwhile, the FTA, which aims to double bilateral trade between Indian and the UK by the year 2030 was expected to conclude by Diwali last year but the deal did not go through because the meeting was postponed.
Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal had in December 2022 met with UK Secretary of State for International Trade Kemi Badenoch in New Delhi to discuss India-UK FTA negotiations. Both Ministers had reaffirmed their commitment to the negotiations which would unlock the full potential of boosting jobs, investments and exports between the two countries.
India and UK concluded the eighth round of negotiations for a trade deal on March 31.
The last round of India-UK dialogue over the FTA had concluded on February 10.

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