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Hope govt will address concerns over CAA: British envoy

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By HT Correspondent
UPDATED ON JAN 30, 2020 11:55 PM IST

The UK on Thursday said it hopes the Indian government will address people’s concerns over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) in line with its commitment to work for “development of all” and win the “trust of all”

Outgoing British envoy Dominic Asquith made the remarks during a news briefing, saying protests such as those against CAA were part of every democracy and the issue is being widely analysed by the Indian and international media..

Asked about protests against CAA, he referred to the NDA government’s motto of “sabka saath, sabka vikas, sabka vishvas” and said: “We’ve noted what the government and [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi say about ‘together with all, development for all, trust of all and I believe that is the manifesto commitment of this government.”

He added, “I refer back to that ‘together with all, development for all, and trust of all’ as the objective set by this government and I am sure that in that ‘trust of all’ will be addressing the concerns…that have been expressed about the CAA. But that’s for the Indian government to deal with.”

Asquith’s remarks came against the backdrop of a debate on CAA in the European Parliament on Thursday that was joined by MEPs from the UK. Diplomats from Western countries have closely followed the protests against CAA, which the external affairs ministry has described as an internal matter.

Responding to another question on whether protests against the CAA could affect trade and investment, he said: “There is a long history of Indian inclusivity and tolerance. So, I think British companies will look at that history.”

Asquith said British diplomats were “very interested” in travelling to Kashmir to assess the situation there and the Indian side was yet to respond to a standing request for a visit. He added the UK was not invited to join diplomats from 15 countries who were recently taken by the Indian government to Kashmir.

Talking about Britain’s plans to forge new partnerships after its exit from the European Union, he said the UK would remain the most important and closest European partner for India and there will be an expansion of diplomatic, security and trade activity. Britain will also focus on practical measures to boost trade in goods and services and investments in India.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to visit India “sometime this year”, he said, adding: “We always would welcome Mr Modi at any time in the UK.”

Asquith expressed regret over “any threat the Indian diplomats may have felt as a result of...protests in August and September” last year near the Indian mission in London. The UK’s commitment to obligations to ensure diplomatic premises and staff are not threatened is “without question”, he added.

“I am glad to note that the last two protests have passed off without any serious concern...That balance between the right to protest, which in a democratic society is very important, and ensuring that protests don’t cross the line to illegality is a balance that is always difficult to maintain,” Asquith said.

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