U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly raises issue of BBC tax searches with EAM Jaishankar

Last month, the Income Tax department conducted searches at the BBCoffices in New Delhi and Mumbai

March 01, 2023 01:44 pm | Updated 10:03 pm IST - NEW DELHI

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly during a meeting in New Delhi on March 1, 2023.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with U.K. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly during a meeting in New Delhi on March 1, 2023. | Photo Credit: PTI

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly raised the issue of Income Tax department searches on BBC offices in Delhi and Mumbai in bilateral talks with External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar on Wednesday.

“[The] U.K. Foreign Secretary brought up [the] BBC tax issue with [the] EAM today,” a government source told The Hindu. “He was firmly told that all entities operating in India must comply fully with relevant laws and regulations,” the source said.

Last week Mr. Jaishankar, in public remarks, had said the BBC documentary was a “hatchet job” and suggested that “election season” had begun in London and New York.

‘BBC separate entity’

Mr. Cleverly confirmed in an interview with ANI on Wednesday that he had raised the BBC raids issue during his meeting with Mr. Jaishankar and told the EAM that the BBC was independent and “ separate” from the British government.

British politicians, across the political spectrum, had expressed their outrage over the raids in the House of Commons last week and questioned the U.K. government on its engagement with the (Indian) government on the issue. The Tory government had strongly defended the BBC in the House of Commons.

Also read: Editorial | Brazen intimidation: On the tax survey on the BBC

Mr. Cleverly is here for Thursday’s G-20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (FMM) and the Raisina Dialogue, a conference co-hosted by the government. The U.K. Foreign Secretary also announced on Wednesday that Britain will appoint a ‘Tech Envoy’ to the Indo-Pacific, with a focus on India, the U.K. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said.

“India is also an emerging global leader on technology and there are immense opportunities for better collaboration between us in this sector. That is why we will be basing our first Tech Envoy to the Indo-Pacific region, to maximise the tech expertise of both countries,” Mr. Cleverly said, in a statement. This is the second such appointment for the U.K.; a British tech envoy to the U.S. was appointed in 2020 and is based in San Francisco.

Bilateral ties

On the agenda for Wednesday’s India-U.K. bilateral meeting was the 2030 Roadmap for a deepening of bilateral ties between the two countries. India and the U.K. are working on a ‘free trade’ deal with seven rounds of talks done, and an eighth round planned for end March, according to the government. They have also announced a scheme for young professionals, which will give 3,000 Indians and 3,000 Britons a pathway to live and work in each other’s countries for up to two years.

At the G-20, Mr. Cleverly is expected to push global efforts on food and energy security, climate change and development, the FCDO said.

He is also expected to “continue to call Russia out at the G-20 and work with partners to mitigate the global impacts of the Russian aggression in Ukraine,” the FCDO said, adding that even if the war were to end now, the effects on food insecurity would persist until 2027.

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