UK’s relationship with India was also about how the two were working together, UK Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad said

The farmers’ protests over agricultural reforms is an issue that is “absolutely and totally” a matter for the government of India, UK minister Lord Tariq Ahmad said on Friday ahead of his visit to New Delhi.

“The protests have been taking place for several months now and India as a democracy has totally guaranteed and secured the right to protest, which we fully acknowledge,” he said, interacting with reporters ahead of a scheduled visit to India.

According to a report by the Hindustan Times, he noted that the principle of the farmers' protest in terms of the actual nature of it was “absolutely and totally a matter for the government of India”.

“That position has been longstanding and has not changed,” the Minister of State responsible for Indian Affairs in the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FDCO) said.

The minister categorically ruled out any scope of the matter overshadowing his extensive schedule in India, the report by wire service PTI published by HT noted.

The visit is seen as further finalizing the groundwork for the forthcoming tour of UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is scheduled to visit India in the coming weeks ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall in June, it further stated.

“The intense programme underlines the importance of our strong relationship with India. It follows on from our ongoing senior-level engagement at ministerial level. We look forward to the Prime Minister's (Johnson) visit in advance of Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi visiting as part of the G7,” the minister said.

“Our relationship with India is not just one of bilateral importance, it's also about how these two countries are working together and there's no better illustration than the current Covid-19 pandemic which grips us… The role that India has played as the pharmacy of the world has been phenomenal,” Ahmad said.

He argued that, “We've been extremely collaborative in our approach to this and publicly acknowledged the role India played in unlocking certain other pharmaceuticals, including the delivery of paracetamol.”

With reference to planned supplies of a batch of Covishield vaccines from the Serum Institute of India to the UK, the minister reiterated that it symbolised the wide range of bilateral ties and would not impact both countries’ commitment to ensuring supplies to more vulnerable regions through the UN-led COVAX facility.

Ahmad’s visit to India will coincide with the UK’s release of the government’s Integrated Review into its post-Brexit foreign policy priorities next week, which is widely expected to confirm a so-called Indo-Pacific tilt in favour of countries like India.

Read the full report in Hindustan Times