India denies trade talks with the U.K. halted over Khalistan protests

The India-U.K. FTA talks were launched on June 17, 2022, amid expectations of its conclusion by Diwali in October

April 10, 2023 01:48 pm | Updated 04:47 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The discussion on India-U.K. FTA resumed after the new U.K. PM Rishi Sunak met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bali during the G20 summit. 

The discussion on India-U.K. FTA resumed after the new U.K. PM Rishi Sunak met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bali during the G20 summit.  | Photo Credit: Reuters

Government sources in New Delhi on April 10 said reports of India halting talks for a free trade agreement (FTA) with the United Kingdom over the recent pro-Khalistan protests in London, are “baseless”. U.K. media had earlier reported that the Indian Government has “disengaged” from the trade talks, indicating that dialogue on the FTA could not proceed further “without a public condemnation of the Khalistan movement”. 

A government source however “denied” the report and termed it as “baseless” informing that the next round of trade talks will take place in London on April 24.  The problem started on March 19 when a pro-Khalistan protest outside the Indian High Commission attempted to vandalise the Indian mission and took down the national tricolour. The agitators were demanding an end to the crackdown against extremist preacher Amritpal Singh and his followers from the separatist group - Waris Punjab De (WPD). 

Also Read | Trade talks and diplomatic tensions ‘unconnected’, says U.K.

India protested by summoning the senior most British diplomat stationed in the British High Commission in New Delhi and demanded “action to identify and prosecute” the individuals responsible for the violence in London. 

Subsequently, the security measures outside the British High Commission and the residence of the High Commissioner Alex Elis were removed though the MEA refused to comment on these steps. The India-U.K. FTA talks were launched on June 17, 2022, amid expectations of its conclusion by Diwali in October.

Also Read | Submit to process of law, says Punjab DGP as radical preacher Amritpal continues to be on run

That deadline was missed as the United Kingdom plunged into political uncertainties following the resignations of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his successor Liz Truss. The discussion began after the new U.K. PM Rishi Sunak met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Bali during the G20 summit. 

On December 13, 2022, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal met his British counterpart Secretary of State for International Trade Kemi Badenoch here when both sides agreed to work on the talks based on the “principle of reciprocity and respect for each other’s sensibilities”. The last round of India-U.K. dialogue over the FTA concluded on February 10 and the next round was expected to be held in March when the pro-Khalistan protests broke out over the police action against Amritpal Singh in Punjab. 

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