London, Jan.18 (ANI): Britain's Conservative Party has said that the recent visit of Foreign Secretary David Miliband to India has been a public relations disaster, and could have damaged relations between the two countries considerably.
"Good relations with India are very important to Britain, and must be handled with care and consistency. If these statements are representative of how David Miliband's visit was received, then those relations will have been damaged," The Independent quoted Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague, as saying.
According to the paper, Miliband was forced to defend his three-day tour of India and Pakistan last night, insisting he had been "open and honest".
When it started, the visit was billed as a "solidarity" trip over the terrorist attacks on Mumbai, but with Miliband indulging in aggressive posturing with the Indian leadership, a diplomatic row between the two countries has surfaced, causing him and his government further embarrassment, adds the paper.
The Foreign Secretary has also been under fire in the UK for writing an article in which he declared the "war on terror" had been a "mistake".
The remarks, in the last days of George Bush's presidency, were criticized for being ill-judged and ill-timed.
In the same article he linked the Mumbai sieges in November, which India blames on the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, to the long-running dispute over Kashmir.
He said: "Resolution of the dispute over Kashmir would help deny extremists in the region one of their main calls to arms and allow Pakistani authorities to focus more effectively on tackling the threat on their western borders."
Reacting to Miliband's statement, Manish Tiwari, a spokesman for the ruling Congress Party, said: "There is no linkage between Kashmir and the terror India has been facing emanating from Pakistan ... The bureaucracy in the British Foreign Office should have educated him a little bit on the facts."
Arun Jaitley, spokesman for the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, said: "In recent years, there has been no bigger disaster than David Miliband's visit."
Miliband is not the first Labour Foreign Secretary to ruffle diplomatic feathers over Kashmir. In 1997, Robin Cook was criticized by India for suggesting that the UK could mediate between New Delhi and Islamabad over the conflict.
However, a spokeswoman for Miliband said: "The Foreign Secretary was very open and honest about his views, which are those of the British government. He delivered the same message in New Delhi as he did in Islamabad." (ANI)