Entities operating here must follow Indian law, says EAM
NEW DELHI: In a further escalation of the BBC tax ‘survey’ issue, UK foreign secretary James Cleverly brought up action against the leading public service broadcaster by Indian authorities in a meeting with his Indian counterpart, S Jaishankar, on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting here Wednesday. According to Indian sources, Jaishankar “firmly” told Cleverly all entities operating in India must fully comply with relevant laws and regulations.
The UK government had defended BBC last week in a House of Commons debate on the issue, saying it stood up for the broadcaster and its editorial freedom and that it had raised the issue with the Indian government.
“The conversations I had with him (Jaishankar) are best to keep with him. I did raise it (the BBC issue),” Cleverly told Reuters after his meeting with the Indian minister. “One of the advantages of having such a strong and professional relationship with Dr Jaishankar is I am able to bring up, and indeed he brings up with me, some of these sensitive issues,” Cleverly added.
In the bilateral, the two sides looked to bolster ties in defence and security, trade and investment. The two leaders also discussed the situation in Ukraine and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
Described as surveys, and not raids, by income-tax authorities, the action followed BBC’s airing of a documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots that featured allegations against PM Narendra Modi in his role as then Gujarat chief minister. UK authorities had said on the day of the searches at BBC offices that they were closely monitoring the situation.
Government sources here said they had earlier too conveyed to UK that BBC had to comply with local laws. UK opposition though sees the “raids’’ as retaliatory action and MPs have exhorted the government to raise the issue with India.
Cleverly arrived in India on Wednesday to participate in the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting. In the bilateral, the two sides looked to bolster ties in defence and security, trade and investment. The two leaders also discussed the situation in Ukraine and cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
According to the British high commission, Cleverly will also announce the creation of the UK’s first Tech Envoy to the Indo-Pacific region who, it said in a statement, will boost ties with India as a priority. “This envoy is the second of its kind to be announced by the UK (after the appointment of a Tech Envoy to the US in late 2020) and demonstrates our commitment to the region and tech-diplomacy,’’ it said.
“India and the UK stand united as friends and partners. We are working together for the benefit of both our great nations,’’ tweeted Cleverly after the meeting.
During his visit, Cleverly also marked the opening of the Young Professionals Scheme, described by the UK as an ambitious new partnership between the two countries, which allows 3,000 Brits and 3,000 Indians a year the right to live and work in the other country for up to two years.