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Vandalism at Indian High Commission raised in UK Parliament

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LONDON: The vandalism by pro-Khalistan extremists at the Indian High Commission here was on Thursday raised in the House of Commons, with British MPs demanding action against “Khalistani hooligans” and the safety of India’s diplomatic staff.

While Conservative Party MP Bob Blackman called for a debate in Parliament to discuss steps to ban groups behind the violence, Opposition Labour Party MP Gareth Thomas asked the Leader of the House of Commons about the steps being taken to ensure there is “no repeat of such behaviour”.

The Cabinet minister addressing the Business of the House, Penny Mordaunt, responded by reiterating Foreign Secretary James Cleverly earlier statement announcing a review of the protection measures around the Indian mission here.

“We strongly condemn the vandalism and violent acts that took place outside the Indian High Commission in London. It was a completely unacceptable action against the High Commission and its staff,” Mordaunt told MPs.

“There is ongoing work with the Metropolitan Police to review the protection measures around the High Commission, and any changes will be made to ensure the safety and security of its staff so that they can go about their business, serving both this country and India,” she said.

Blackman pointed out that the attack on Sunday was the sixth time in as many years that the Indian High Commission has been attacked in a similar way.

“The hooliganism of Khalistani hooligans outside the Indian high commission on Sunday is a disgrace to this country,” he said.

“Khalistani militants are operating across the world; Canada, the US and Australia saw similar attacks over the weekend. We are harbouring Khalistani terrorists in this country right now. Can we have a debate in government time on what action we can take to ensure that these terrorists are held to account and banned in this country,” he said.

Earlier on Thursday, Blackman as chair of the India (Trade and Investment) All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) raised the UK-India Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in the Commons and sought an update from the Business and Trade Minister Nigel Huddleston, who confirmed that the eighth round of FTA negotiations are currently under way.

“Both nations have committed to and are working together for a mutually ambitious deal. We are working through substantive issues such as goods, market access, services and investment,” said Huddleston.

Asked if the FTA is likely to be concluded by Diwali this year, having missed the Diwali 2022 deadline, the minister stressed that “it is about the deal, not the date”.

“We will not tie our hands by setting an arbitrary deadline,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Indian High Commission in London has been working to counter disinformation being spread on social media alleging that the objects hurled during Wednesday’s planned pro-Khalistan demonstration came from India House.

“Fact check: the truth is, a small minority of protesters threw water bottles, ink balloons, eggs and flares at the High Commission in London, some of which hit other protestors and the police. Nothing was thrown by mission staff at our own brethren. We have proof,” the High Commission tweeted.

“Do not believe disinformation aimed to disrupt harmony. Indians will always respect the religious beliefs of all,” it said, alongside videos showing water bottles and coloured flares being hurled by Khalistan flag-bearing protesters towards India House.

The UK government has condemned the attacks as “unacceptable” and committed to “robustly respond” to such incidents of violence. (PTI)

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