UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, in the House of Commons on Wednesday, that any dispute between India and Pakistan should be solved by the two countries bilaterally. He was actually responding to a question posed by opposition Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi about protests by farmers’ groups against the new farm laws in India. Later a government spokesperson clarified that: “The Prime Minister clearly misheard the question in Parliament. The Foreign Office are following the issue of protests in India closely”.
Mr Dhesi has been quite outspoken about the protests by the farmers of mainly Punjab and Haryana against the new farm laws and their subsequent clampdown by the authorities. Belonging to the Sikh Diaspora in the UK, Mr. Dhesi is naturally concerned about the protests in India as a large number of protesters are Sikhs.
He had asked the Prime Minister in the House of Commons: “So, will the Prime Minister (Johnson) convey to the Indian Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) our heartfelt anxieties, our hopes for a speedy resolution to the current deadlock and does he agree that everyone has a fundamental right to peaceful protest.”
Mr. Johnson, in his reply to the question, touched the Kashmir dispute between the South Asian states of India and Pakistan. He said: “Our view is that of course we have serious concerns about what is happening between India and Pakistan but these are pre-eminently matters for those two governments to settle and I know that he appreciates that point.”
Later Mr. Dhesi and other Labour MPs expressed shock over the gaffe by the Prime Minister. Another MP of the Sikh Diaspora Preet Kaur Gill said that the Prime Minister has not been briefed by the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab of the ongoing protests.
Emily Thornberry, fellow Labour MP, said: “It would seem our Prime Minister (and former Foreign Secretary) doesn’t know the difference between Punjab and Kashmir.”
In spite of all this the Foreign Office of the UK has refused to be drawn in the internal affairs of another sovereign country.