(This was originally posted in News18 by Sanjay Suri)
India and Britain are preparing for new security cooperation that will be a step up from present levels, Indian High Commissioner to the UK Gaitri Issar Kumar told CNN-News18 in an interview. “We are very concerned about security issues and terrorism,” Kumar said. India and the UK, she said, “share a similar level of concern, and we hope to work more and more closely on several very specific issues on which we are already working very well together”. Security cooperation is being stepped up at the levels of both domestic security threats and increased international cooperation.
In London, India House has been attacked by demonstrators, and frequent protests all threaten violence. Over that, Kumar said the Indian High Commission has seen “the best possible cooperation from the London Metropolitan Police and we hope to build on that and address the security concerns of our High Commission and its property and its personnel”. But the response clearly needs to be taken beyond policing issues.
“We have made a very careful assessment,” she said. “There is a very high level of misinformation going through a population far away from India, and there are communities here that are activated.” The High Commission, she said, has been engaging actively with these communities. “Meeting those communities, clarifying issues especially with regard to the ground realities in India has helped to make people realise there is no reason to come out in front of the Indian High Commission,” she said. “We are seeing the results on the ground.
Signs of change
The results were in fact visible outside the Indian High Commission at the precise time Kumar was speaking. A large demonstration had been planned on October 27 to mark the date on which Kashmir finally became a part of India. Less than 100 demonstrators turned up – and these included some making demands about Julian Assange, and others making demands over climate issues. But signs of an aggressive approach by a handful were visible too. A small group of Khalistanis attempted to stick posters on a so-called Sikh referendum on to the Indian High Commission building. The posters and the demonstrators were removed after insistent demands from the High Commission.
The High Commission is in parallel stepping up its information campaign. “Social media spreads things so fast; we have to be faster in addressing misinformation,” said Kumar. There is a strong need also, she said, “to circulate proper information to the British population who go along naively with the misinformation that is spread among them.”
Signs of greater international cooperation have been evident already not least through the joint exercises by defence forces from both countries. But Kumar cautioned against reading any international aggression into these exercises. Particularly any suggestions that these exercises were aimed against China. “These joint exercises are unprecedented,” she said. They have involved all three services on both the Indian and the British sides. “This is a part of a normal defence and security relationship, it is not an alliance against any other entity or state,” she said.