Tory MPs urge Johnson to push Modi to G7 over treatment of UK business
Boris Johnson is urged by Tory MPs to stand up for British companies operating in India at this week’s G7 summit and to warn Prime Minister Narendra Modi against making his country “a home halfway between democracy and despotism “.
Johnson invited Modi as a guest to the G7 meeting as part of an attempt to involve other democracies, but India’s recent treatment of Western investors including Vodafone and Cairn Energy has infuriated some Conservative MPs.
David Davis, former cabinet minister, said India was rightly seen as a strategic ally in the Western campaign to contain China, but that the Indian government was “not on the path that the West would prefer ”.
Davis, a longtime civil liberties activist, said India had kicked critics off social media platforms and accused the country of “forcibly seizing the assets of at least three US and UK companies operating in India”.
“It is time for Modi and his government to choose,” he said. “Does the future of India lie in the engagement in the Western alliance of free democratic nations, or will it rather attempt a compromise between democracy and despotism, between freedom and oppression? , between the rule of law or the arbitrariness of leaders, between the West and the Chinese Communist Party? “
Meanwhile, James Daly and Paul Bristow, Conservative MPs and members of the all-party parliamentary group on Kashmir, wrote to Johnson urging him to raise with Modi his government’s allegedly “hacked” attitude towards foreign investors.
The Indian Prime Minister will attend the G7 summit, from Friday, virtually due to the severity of the Covid-19 epidemic in his country. Leaders from Australia, South Korea and South Africa have also been invited as guests.
The UK government has said it is not its policy to get involved in legal disputes of the type involving Vodafone, Cairn Energy and New Delhi, and that Johnson is only holding bilateral talks with the participating leaders. at the top in person.
The British Prime Minister is keen to make a trade deal with India and has been accused by the opposition Labor Party of delaying India’s inclusion on a travel “red list” in April, fearing that this may not happen. ‘prevents his planned visit to the country. Johnson’s visit to India was ultimately postponed.
Vodafone, one of Britain’s largest companies, entered the Indian market in 2007 but found itself embroiled in a complex dispute with the country’s tax authorities, which demanded € 3 billion in arrears.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy launched legal proceedings against Air India in New York last month in an attempt to enforce an international arbitration tribunal’s ruling that New Delhi should pay the company. $ 1.2 billion plus interest to settle its own historic tax dispute.
Devas, a satellite company based in India and the United States, has also been embroiled in a crippling legal dispute with Indian authorities over a 2005 contract with Antrix, the commercial arm of the Indian space agency.
In their letter to Johnson, Daly and Bristow urged the Prime Minister to take a firm stand with Modi: “Every step forward in economic relations between the UK and India depends on upholding the rule of law and investor protection.
“It is the foundation that supports increased investment, recognition of standards, technological cooperation and much more. It offers certainty and predictability, which in turn unlocks investments and encourages risk-taking. “
The Indian government did not respond to requests for comment. But in May, he said he was “vigorously defending his cause” in the Cairn Energy dispute, including appealing to overturn the arbitration award.
A person familiar with the thinking of the government said that he “firmly believes that he has done nothing wrong”.
“The water is under the bridge for both of these cases,” he said. “The extent and scope of our [India-UK] relationship are broader than these two companies.