Jaishankar Embarks 5-Day visit to UK

New Delhi: External affairs minister S. Jaishankar on Saturday embarked on a five-day visit to the UK with the aim of reviewing various aspects of bilateral ties. It is expected that preparations for British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's, who on Saturday sent out Diwali greetings to all, possible visit to India in the next few months will figure in his talks in London.

In a statement on the visit, New Delhi said, "India and the UK have a growing bilateral partnership. During his visit, Mr Jaishankar will be holding discussions with his counterpart, foreign secretary James Cleverly, and will meet several other dignitaries.

The statement said: "India and the UK share a warm and thriving relationship. The India-UK comprehensive strategic partnership was launched in 2021, along with the India-UK Roadmap 2030. The roadmap is a commitment to a partnership that delivers for both countries. The external affairs minister’s visit will give new impetus to the friendly ties between the two countries."

In his Diwali greetings, the British Prime Minister said, “Happy Diwali to all those celebrating around the world and across the UK and a very happy Bandi Chhor Divas to our friends in the Sikh community."

“With the lighting of the Diyas, let this be a moment we can look to the future with hope. My guiding light as Prime Minister is the determination to change things for the better, and as a symbol of the triumph of light over darkness, I believe Diwali is a poignant representation of the endeavour for a brighter tomorrow. As your first British Asian Prime Minister and a devout Hindu, I also hope this can be a celebration of the fantastic ethnic and cultural diversity that makes the UK the place it is today.”

It may be noted that India and the UK are still negotiating a free trade pact favourable to both. The ties between the two nations are seen as at their strongest in the past seven and a half decades, especially during the current tenure of Indian-origin Mr Sunak as Prime Minister in Britain.

Another major issue in bilateral ties is the extremist activities of pro-Khalistan elements in the UK. But Britain is taking action. In a major victory for Indian security concerns, Britain announced in August this year a new funding of £95,000 (about '1 crore) “to enhance the UK’s capability to tackle pro-Khalistan extremism".

It may be recalled that earlier this year, the Indian national flag was illegally taken down from the premises of the Indian high commission in London by pro-Khalistan vandals, after which New Delhi had strongly raised the issue with Britain and conveyed that this security breach was unacceptable.

The British government under Mr Sunak, has been working with India to assuage Indian concerns about the threat posed by pro-Khalistan extremist elements in the country.

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