UK to discuss ‘persecution of minorities’ in India with PM Modi

Commonwealth meet: UK to discuss ‘persecution of minorities’ in India with Modi
March 5, 2018
New Delhi:During the meeting of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London and Windsor with PM Modi, to be held in April, Britain is likely to raise the issue of ‘alleged persecution of Christians and Sikhs in India’, as reported by the media.

Following repeated demands coming from the Opposition MPs after lengthy debate at the House of Commons on ‘Freedom of religion or belief’ last week, who cited details of ‘persecution in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh’, Britain took this decision.

Only after reading the full debate transcription will the Centre react, informed an MEA officer.

Media reported that Scottish National Party’s Martin Docherty-Hughes mentioned the detention in Punjab of Jagtar Singh Johal. Johan was detained in November, allegedly in connection with the murder of RSS leaders and a pastor.

Dochert-Hughes and Fabian Hamilton of Labour also raised the issue of ‘Christian persecution’ claiming India was ‘one of the most dangerous countries to practice Christianity’.

The news agencies quoted Mark Field, Foreign Office minister for Asia, as saying, “My frequent jousting partner, the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire (Martin Docherty-Hughes), alluded to a consular case that we continue to work closely on.”

“He made some profound points about Prime Minister Modi and about Christian and Sikh minorities in India. We will do our best to raise some of those in an appropriate manner at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in mid-April, to ensure that Parliament’s voice is properly heard. He will appreciate that diplomacy sometimes needs to be done behind closed doors, rather than with megaphones. Of course, we must also remember the plight of the Sikhs in Punjab. Many of us represent strong Sikh communities. I recently had the privilege to be in Kerala… Kerala is home to the largest minority of Christians in India; many are from a Catholic background,” Mark Field added.

India’s growing engagement with the Commonwealth forum has given it a much-needed boost, according to the chairman of a UK-based council responsible for promoting greater trade and investment between Commonwealth countries.

Lord Jonathan Marland, chairman of the UK-based Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council (CWEIC), said the proposed UK visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in April marks a significant recognition by India that the Commonwealth has got value.

There has been a complete sea change of attitude towards the Commonwealth, which is entirely to India’s credit and to the Commonwealth’s benefit. This has given the Commonwealth the boost it needs,” he said during an interview on plans for CHOGM in London.

The CWEIC is in charge of organising the Commonwealth Business Forum (CBF), which will be held alongside CHOGM between April 16 and 20 and bring together businesses from across the 53 member-countries with government leaders for sessions on technology, innovation, financial services and sustainability.

“India’s engagement is absolutely brilliant… there is a recognition that the Commonwealth offers a great opportunity for India and within that opportunity lies an opportunity for the rest of the Commonwealth,” he said.

Marland also dismissed tags such as “Empire 2.0” thrown up by some UK media reports that have sought to connect Brexit-hit Britain s renewed engagement with the Commonwealth as a throwback to the Raj.

“That is not the view of the UK government. The great news at the moment is that India has realised that this is not a colonial thing, and other countries have realised the same.