UK defends BBC independence, says ‘investing heavily’ in relationship with India


PTI, Feb 2, 2023, 6:01 PM IST

The UK government has defended the BBC as a media outlet “independent in its output“ in the wake of widespread Indian diaspora protests against the controversial documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Addressing reporters at Downing Street on Wednesday, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson echoed a statement issued by Foreign Secretary James Cleverly in Parliament earlier this week to add that the government continues to invest in its relationship with India.

“The BBC is independent in its output and we would stress that we continue to regard India as an incredibly important international partner,” the spokesperson said in response to a question about India’s condemnation of the documentary India: The Modi Question questioning the then chief minister’s role in the 2002 Godhra riots.

“We will be investing heavily in our relationship with India over the coming decades and we’re confident it will only go from strength to strength,” the spokesperson said.

It followed a similar response by Cleverly in the House of Commons on Tuesday, when he responded to a question from a Conservative Party colleague on the assurances the UK government had given to India in the wake of coordinated diaspora protests against the BBC over the weekend.

“I recently had the opportunity to speak to the Indian High Commissioner, Vikram Doraiswami, on this and a number of other issues,” the foreign minister told MPs.

“We recognise how this portrayal of the Indian government has played out in India. I made it clear that the BBC is independent in its output, that the UK regards India as an incredibly important international partner and that we will be investing heavily in that relationship in the coming decades,” he said.

The minister was responding to a question by Tory MP Bob Blackman, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Hindus, who termed the documentary as “anti-India propaganda” and asked about the steps taken to “reassure our Commonwealth partner that this propaganda is not the policy of this government”.

Cleverly met Doraiswami during the India Global Forum’s UK-India Parliamentary Lunch last week and addressed the gathering of parliamentarians and business leaders on strengthening bilateral ties across all spheres.

“On trade, we are well into the negotiations of what has all the hallmarks of being a genuine global standard bilateral trade relationship, because we have this wonderful bilateral relationship which I like to think of as unique,” he said at the time.

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