India and UK to continue talks on free trade agreement | India

India and the UK will continue talks on a bilateral free trade deal, Boris Johnson and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have said after the UK made clear it was willing to join the immigration to any agreement.

The pair appeared to differ on how quickly a deal could be done – Johnson suggested he could be ready for the Diwali festival at the end of October, but Modi pointed to the end of the year.

Johnson said: “As the next round of talks begins here next week, we are telling our negotiators to do so before Diwali in October.”

Modi said there had been “good progress and we decided to make every effort to conclude the FTA [free trade agreement] by the end of the year.” Three rounds of talks had already taken place.

Johnson and Modi were speaking together at Hyderabad House in Delhi, where they were holding bilateral talks, as Johnson’s two-day visit to India draws to a close.

Downing Street had hoped the trip would demonstrate the Prime Minister’s determination to focus on investment, jobs and security, but it was overshadowed by events at home.

On Thursday, Johnson’s allies were unable to stop MPs backing an inquiry into whether he had misled Parliament over Partygate, and senior MP Steve Baker, a former Johnson supporter , joined the ranks of those calling him out.

India was keen for increased access to the UK for its citizens to be part of any trade deal, and Johnson signaled on Thursday that he was ready to make concessions in this area – something previous UK governments had refused to do.

Asked if he was ready to offer more visas as part of a deal, he told ITV: “The UK actually has a massive shortage in certain sectors like IT. Some estimates say we are missing hundreds of thousands of people. So what you can have is controlled migration, which allows you to bring in talented people who can really help your economy.

He added: “We won’t give these things away lightly – we want to make sure we get a proper deal. There’s room to do a fantastic deal. The UK hopes its car industry and manufacturers food and drink products could benefit from lower tariffs as part of an agreement.

The government is under pressure to strike new trade deals, with the hoped-for post-Brexit deal with Washington on the back burner as US President Joe Biden focuses on other issues.

Johnson had promised to raise tough issues with Modi, including India’s ambivalent stance on Ukraine – although Johnson said en route to India that it was important to acknowledge the country’s long-standing relationship with Russia.

In a statement alongside Johnson, Modi called for an “immediate ceasefire” in Ukraine and stressed the importance of diplomacy, but did not criticize Russia, which is the biggest supplier of arms of India.

India has abstained in successive UN motions condemning Russia and continues to buy oil from Moscow.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met Modi in Delhi earlier this month and insisted the two countries would continue to find ways to trade, despite Western sanctions against Russia.

The UK announced during Johnson’s visit that it would liberalize arms exports to India as the countries deepen defense cooperation. The government will issue an open general export license for India, which means that separate licenses will not be required for individual contracts.

Christy J. Olson