India, UK to have task force on extremism

The activities of pro-Khalistan groups that have support from sections of the Indian diaspora in the UK have emerged as an irritant in bilateral relations in recent years. The Indian side has often complained about such groups to the British government.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves as his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi watches after a ceremonial reception at India's presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on Friday, April 22, 2022. (Reuters)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves as his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi watches after a ceremonial reception at India's presidential palace Rashtrapati Bhavan, in New Delhi on Friday, April 22, 2022. (Reuters)
Updated on Apr 22, 2022 11:45 PM IST
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By, New Delhi

India and the UK on Friday agreed to create a task force on countering extremist elements such as pro-Khalistan groups operating in Britain, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying such organisations are not tolerated by his country.

The activities of pro-Khalistan groups that have support from sections of the Indian diaspora in the UK have emerged as an irritant in bilateral relations in recent years. The Indian side has often complained about such groups to the British government, especially their efforts to organise public protests and call for the creation of Khalistan.

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“We have a very strong view in the UK that we don’t tolerate extremist groups setting up in the UK and...threatening other countries, threatening India. What we have done in particular, as a result of this visit, is set up an anti-extremist task force to see what all we can do to help India in that particular respect,” Johnson told a news conference after his talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.

A joint statement issued after the meeting said the two leaders expressed satisfaction at cooperation through the joint working group (JWG) on counter-terrorism, including sharing of information and intelligence on terror entities and individuals.

Within the framework of this JWG, the two sides “agreed to constitute a sub-group on countering extremism in order to further enhance cooperation between the two sides in ensuring that all possible actions are taken against groups and individuals based in or operating out of either country, seeking to incite violent extremism and terrorism and who are involved in financing such activities”, the joint statement said.

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Modi and Johnson expressed “zero tolerance” for all forms of terrorism and “for all those who encourage, support and finance terrorism or provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups”, according to the joint statement. They called on all countries to root out terrorist safe havens, disrupt terrorist financing channels and “halt cross-border movement of terrorists”. They also reiterated their condemnation of terror attacks in India and the UK, including the Mumbai and Pathankot attacks, and emphasised the importance of perpetrators of such attacks being “systematically and expeditiously brought to justice”.

Responding to a question on the extradition of economic offenders such as Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi, Johnson said the process of sending them back to India has been hampered by “legal technicalities”.

“On the fugitive individuals that you mentioned...I think there are legal technicalities that make it very, very difficult. What I can tell you is that the UK government has ordered their extradition...and [steps have been taken] for them to be taken back to India for trial,” he said.

“We welcome people who are talented and brilliant coming from India to the UK...I want to make it absolutely clear now that we don’t welcome people who want to use our legal system to evade the law here in India,” he added.

Johnson responded to a question on whether had raised concerns about human rights violations with the Indian side by saying that the UK raises these issues in a “friendly way”.

He said, “On our relations with India and how we deal with questions around human rights and democratic values, of course, we have these conversations but the advantage of our friendship is that we can have them, and we can have them in a friendly and private way.”

He added, “It’s very important to realise that India has constitutional protections for communities, India is very, very different from autocracies around the world. It is a great democracy.”

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Tuesday, June 28, 2022