A day after he held extensive talks with Jaishankar, Raab told a select group of journalists that India and the UK have an “exciting range of possibilities right across the board”, and indicated that some of them will be unveiled during Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit here next month.
Asked about the UK’s position on the raging protests by farmers at the border points of Delhi and whether he raised the issue during his talks with Indian leaders as demanded by several British parliamentarians, he said the matter was discussed with Jaishankar.
“I discussed the situation with Foreign Minister Jaishankar. Obviously, we respect the fact that the reforms going through your system here are domestic reforms. Of course, they have elicited the protests that you refer to, and your politics, in some sense because of the Indian diaspora in Britain, is our politics,” Raab said.
“But I think India, as well as having a market-driven economy, also has a vibrant heritage of peaceful protests and vigorous debate and we watch that with interest and we respect it.”
Protests were held outside the Indian High Commission in London in support of the agitating farmers who have been demanding repeal of the newly enacted farm laws.
Raab arrived on Monday on a three-day visit to India in the midst of Britain’s complex negotiations with the European Union(EU) on reaching a post-Brexit trade deal.
Asked whether issues like India’s border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh, the Malabar drill, and enhancing cooperation in the maritime spheres figured in the talks, Raab said, “We had discussions on all these issues”.
On the likelihood of the UK joining the Quad or the Malabar naval exercise, he did not rule out the possibility. “There is nothing ruled out at this stage.”
The Quad is a grouping comprising India, the US, Japan and Australia. All Quad member countries were part of the Malabar naval exercise last month.
Secretary Raab also said an “outstanding legal” issue has held up the extradition of fugitive businessman Vijay Mallya from the UK.
“There are still some legal issues outstanding. Obviously they are independent from politics or political intervention. We would like to see those expedited as swiftly as possible,” he said.
On China’s growing belligerence in the Indo-Pacific, he said the focus of the UK’s approach would be to engage in grasping the opportunities as well as to manage the challenges and the pressures.
“Obviously, the rise of China provides the strategic context alongside the wider growth of the market economies in southeast Asia and far east and the wider region,” he said.
“There are opportunities coming with that, but there are also challenges as well. And actually, that’s all part of the Indo-Pacific tilt, which is to be more engaged in grasping the opportunities but also more engaged in managing some of the challenges and the pressures,” he added.
The British leader said India is “clearly a partner and a friend” for the UK in its Indo-Pacific outlook and that both countries ought to be far more together.
“Obviously, there is the rise of China and the position of China, and the opportunities but also the risks it presents.”
“I think there are exciting opportunities ahead. I think you will start to see a step-change in our collaboration,” Raab said about ties with India.