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‘Entities working in India must comply with relevant laws’: Jaishankar tells UK foreign secy on BBC tax issue

New Delhi, March 2, 2023 

The BBC offices in India were surveyed last month as part of an investigation by income tax authorities. This had happened days after the government had blocked a BBC documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to be aired in India.

During a bilateral meeting with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar Wednesday, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly brought up the BBC tax issue. BBC offices in India were surveyed last month as part of an investigation by Income Tax authorities, days after India had blocked its documentary on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

In its official statement on the IT ‘surveys’, the Union finance ministry had said the exercise had revealed that the “income/profits shown by various group entities are not commensurate with the scale of operations in India”.

“He was firmly told that all entities operating in India must comply fully with relevant laws and regulations,” a source said about the UK foreign secretary who is in India to attend the two-day G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting that will be held in Delhi.

Earlier in the day Jaishankar, who held discussions with Cleverly, tweeted that the two sides exchanged “views on the global situation as well as the G20 agenda”. “Began the morning with a bilateral meeting with Foreign Secretary @JamesCleverly of the UK. Reviewed the progress in our relationship since our last discussion. Noted in particular the commencement of the Young Professional Scheme,” Jaishankar said.

During his visit to the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT Delhi) Wednesday, Cleverly launched the Young Professionals Scheme that allows young British and Indians to live and work in each other’s countries for up to two years, which was announced by the Home Secretary earlier this week.

In a statement, Cleverly said, “India is a hugely important partner to the UK and the deeper ties we are forging now will help to grow the UK economy and boost our industries for the future. This landmark migration scheme will enable the brightest and best in both our countries to benefit from new opportunities.

“India is also an emerging global leader on technology and there are immense opportunities for better collaboration between us in this sector. That is why we will be sending our first Tech Envoy to the Indo-Pacific region, to maximise the tech expertise of both countries,” he said. Cleverly also addressed an India-Europe business event in the national capital where he will reaffirm the UK’s commitment to conclude a Free Trade Agreement with India. With more links than almost any country in the Indo-Pacific region, the UK-India trading relationship is already worth £34 billion, growing by £10 billion in one year.

The UK foreign secretary will also announce the creation of the UK’s first Tech Envoy to the Indo-Pacific region to boost ties with India as a priority. “This envoy is the second of its kind to be announced by the UK (after the appointment of a Tech Envoy to the US in late 2020) and demonstrates our commitment to the region and tech-diplomacy,” a British High Commission statement said.

The UK deployed its first Tech Envoy Joe White to San Francisco in 2020. The statement said that the new tech envoy role will boost the UK’s status as a science and tech superpower. “The envoy will work with our partners in the region on areas of shared interest, including setting global technology standards and helping to solve challenges through innovative technology,” the British High Commission said.

The British High Commission said that India has the world’s third-highest number of tech unicorns and startups, with 108 startups gaining the unicorn status of a private company valued at over $1 billion. “This announcement illustrates the UK’s clear commitment to boosting partnerships in India and across South Asia,” it said.

On Thursday, Cleverly will attend the G20 Foreign Ministers meeting to work with partners to advance global efforts on food and energy security, climate change and development.

“He will also continue to call Russia out at the G20 and work with partners to mitigate the global impacts of Russian aggression in Ukraine. If the war were to end today, the effects of the exacerbated food insecurity would still run into 2027,” the statement said.

[The Indian Express]

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