Alex Ellis, British high commissioner to India.(MINT)
Alex Ellis, British high commissioner to India.(MINT)

British envoy says farmers' protest is India’s 'internal issue'

  • High Commissioner Alex Ellis also said more debates on the farmers' protest should be expected around the world as India takes on a greater role on the global stage
PUBLISHED ON MAR 06, 2021 07:16 AM IST

Ahead of a debate on the farmers’ protest in the UK Parliament on March 8, British high commissioner Alex Ellis on Friday described the stir as an “internal issue” that has to be resolved by the Indian government.

However, Ellis pointed to UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab’s remarks during a visit to New Delhi last December about Indian politics resonating in British domestic politics because of the presence of a large Indian diaspora, and said such matters are likely to be debated around the world as India’s significance grows.

Asked about the planned debate in the British Parliament at his first media briefing since taking over last month, Ellis described the protest by farmers against three farm laws as an “internal issue for India”. The debate was scheduled in response to a public petition and “issues related to India are quite regularly debated in our Parliament”, he added.

“This is something which is done by Parliament...the government has to participate and the government has to answer. But it’s really parliamentarians, as you’d expect, raising issues of concern to them and their constituents,” Ellis said.

“But the government views something like the farmers’ protest as an internal Indian matter. We observe it, of course, but that is for India to resolve,” he said.

Ellis said more such debates around the world should be expected as India takes on a greater role on the global stage.

“As the Indian diaspora grows, and it’s very successful in many countries in the world, you’re going to see more of this. I think it’s one of the things that as India grows, as India becomes more international (and) ever more significant in the world, there will be more debates about Indian issues,” the envoy said.

Noting that Raab had said “your politics are our politics”, Ellis explained that “things that happen in India have ripples in the UK, partly because you do have such a big diaspora community”.

According to British parliamentary convention, petitions that garner 10,000 signatures on the UK government and Parliament website get a response from the government. Petitions that get 100,000 signatures are almost always debated.

Influential UK lawmakers such as Claudia Webbe and Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi have been at the forefront of efforts to raise the farmers’ protest in the British Parliament. In the face of pressure from the British MPs, Raab raised the farmers' protest with his Indian counterpart during his visit to New Delhi in December.

Asked about the debate in the UK Parlaiment, external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava told a regular news briefing that Indian missions around the world are providing accurate information on the farmers’ protest to the people and governments of their host countries.

“In this context, the Indian high commission and consulates in UK have provided information on the three farm bills to the British government, lawmakers, civil society and others,” he said.

They are also giving information on the Indian government’s efforts to engage the farmers’ unions on the three laws and to resolve the issue through talks,” he added.

The government’s handling of the farmers’ protest, which began on November 26 last year, has been criticised by lawmakers and political leaders in several countries. The government has defended the three new laws as necessary for long overdue reforms in the agricultural sector.

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