Countries should not preach to each other, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday, while responding to a question on freedom of non-governmental organisations, academics and other groups in India, PTI reported.

Johnson was speaking at the Times Network India Economic Concave in Mumbai during his second day as part of his visit to India. The House of Lords, the Upper House of the British Parliament, had in January discussed the freedom of NGOs and academics in India.

The discussion took place after India’s home ministry refused to renew registration of over 5,900 NGOs under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act. The registration is a mandatory requirement to receive foreign funds. British MPs had urged Johnson to take up the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to India.

When questioned on the matter on Friday, Johnson said: “I don’t think it’s the job of one country to preach to another. India is an incredible country. [It has] 1.35 billion people, the biggest democracy... Nobody can say India is not a democracy. It’s an extraordinary place.”

Johnson’s comments came at a time when India is witnessing a spate of communal clashes in various states. Earlier this month, a US Department of State report had noted that Muslims in India are vulnerable to communal violence and discrimination.

The British prime minister himself faced criticism on Thursday for visiting a factory of the heavy-construction equipment manufacturer JCB. His visit came just days after bulldozers manufactured by the company were used to raze several shops, homes and other allegedly illegal structures in the neighbourhood, mostly belonging to Muslims, in Delhi’s Jahangirpuri area.

Earlier on Friday, at a joint press conference with Modi, Johnson had said that a free-trade agreement with India should be finalised by Diwali.

The free trade deal with India is expected to boost Britain’s trade by up to £28 billion (over 27.91 lakh crore) annually by 2035 and increase incomes across the United Kingdom by up to £3 billion (more than Rs 29,901 crore), a statement from Johnson’s office had earlier said.

Johnson and Modi had announced the agreement in May 2021.