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Rift over Ukraine exposed as high-powered UK delegation to India called off

Source : The Guardian

Rift over Ukraine exposed as high-powered UK delegation to India called off
House of Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle was to have led a cross-party delegation to India. (Photograph: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor/PA)

A high-powered cross-party UK delegation to India led by the Commons Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, and his deputy has been called off at the last minute in a sign of a growing rift over India’s refusal to distance itself from the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The 10-strong delegation has been in discussion with India since January and was planning to visit Delhi and Rajasthan, but the Indian high commission is understood to have raised objections at the last minute.

Boris Johnson spoke with Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, on Tuesday in an attempt to use his influence to persuade India to take a more robust position over the Russian invasion. India has not imposed sanctions or even condemned Russia, its biggest supplier of military hardware.

The Speaker’s visit, the first of its kind to India and part of his effort to act as a diplomat between parliaments, was due to go ahead during the Easter parliamentary recess.

The delegation had originally been envisaged as giving a nudge to encourage progress on a UK-India free trade deal, but the context of the visit changed after the invasion of Ukraine in February, and Britain’s leading role in supporting the armed resistance of the Ukrainians.

It was not clear if India’s issues were with individual members of the chosen delegation or related to a wider concern about British MPs being given a platform in India to urge Modi to take a more robust position.

Britain has been concerned by reports that India’s central bank is in initial consultations on a rupee-rouble trade arrangement with Moscow that would enable exports to Russia to continue after western sanctions restricted international payment mechanisms.

The talks would allow India to continue to buy Russian energy exports and other goods.

However India, locked in a land border dispute with China, may feel it cannot afford to alienate its main arms supplier.

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