Side-stepping irritants: On India-U.K. ties

News: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in Delhi recently, committing to more cooperation with India on trade, defence, combating climate change and cybersecurity.

What were the major issues discussed?

The deadline to complete the full FTA has been pushed till October-end or Deepavali, with a view to doubling bilateral trade by 2030.

Of concern to the U.K. is the lifting of Indian tariffs on Scotch whisky, which might make some headway, as India has accepted lower tariffs on Australian wine and the U.K. seems more flexible in increasing visas to Indian professionals.

Strengthening of defence ties and cooperating strategically in the Indo-Pacific.

The two leaders also discussed green technology transfers and international climate finance, although India has yet to commit in writing to the Nationally Determined Contributions described at COP26 in Glasgow.

The PM of UK referred to India’s long-standing relationship with Russia, expressing understanding of India’s position, in stark contrast to the visit of his Foreign Minister recently. He also brushed aside a question on human rights concerns in India.

A sub-group is to be set up to study “extremism” inside India and the U.K.

Mr. Johnson suggested it would be used to monitor Khalistani groups (as New Delhi desires), but has a broader mandate to counter all groups and individuals “seeking to incite violent extremism and terrorism”.

In return, New Delhi chose not to press the point too hard on why economic fugitives (Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi) have still not been extradited.

What is the way forward?

Both New Delhi and London must ensure more concerted efforts to bring those agreements to a finale in the near future, to reach their ambitious goals under “Roadmap 2030” agreed to at the last summit in 2021.

Source: This post is based on the article “Side-stepping irritants: On India-U.K. ties” published in The Hindu on 25th Apr 22.

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