Prime Minister David Cameron raised the issue of alleged growing intolerance in society and human rights in India during the recent visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it was disclosed in the House of Lords.
There were several demands on the eve of Modi’s visit that Cameron raise such issues, but there had been no confirmation so far that he did so. Foreign secretary Philip Hammond had said the issues would be raised during the high profile three-day visit last month.
Foreign Office minister Joyce Anelay told the House of Lords on Monday that Cameron discussed issues related to human rights in India, including reported growing intolerance, during the visit. Economic relations would not prevent Britain raising such issues, she said.
Responding to queries, Anelay reminded the lords of Modi’s commitment to human rights made during his speech to the Indian diaspora at Wembley Stadium.
“My right honourable friend the Prime Minister discussed human rights with Prime Minister Modi during his visit in November and welcomed Mr Modi’s commitment to preserve India’s traditions of tolerance and social harmony and to promote inclusive development,” she said.
Anelay added: “(When) we discuss human rights matters with countries around the world, we never allow issues about our economic relationship to get in the way of upholding international law and international humanitarian law.
“I can say of course that during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the UK, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister discussed intolerance in India with him. We should note that Prime Minister Modi has on numerous occasions reaffirmed his commitment to and respect for India’s core values of tolerance and freedoms, as well as reaffirming the importance of social harmony and inclusive development. That is most welcome.”
Lords raised the issue of justice for minority groups, including Dalits, who they alleged were being killed, raped or had their homes burnt. They asked the Cameron government to raise the issue of restrictions allegedly imposed by the Indian government on NGOs with regard to foreign donations.
Modi had faced uncomfortable questions from British journalists on a perceived increase in intolerance during a joint news conference with Cameron in London.