The financial services sector holds out an “exciting” prospect of closer exchange between India and the UK with a free trade agreement (FTA) being negotiated between the two countries, according to British Chancellor Rishi Sunak.
In an interaction with reporters ahead of India Global Forum’s UK-India Awards celebrating Indian diaspora success within the UK-India corridor on Friday, the senior British Indian Cabinet minister said he sees enormous opportunity for both countries in areas such as fintech and welcomed the opening up of the Indian insurance market. The minister also expressed his confidence over the Diwali timeframe for an FTA draft to be ready.
“There’s good progress being made and I think one of the exciting things for me in my role is financial services,” he told PTI. “Financial service is an area where there’s an enormous opportunity for both of our countries. India’s goal is to spread insurance across the entire economy because insurance is a great thing for enabling protection for individuals and growth. We can help with that in the UK because we have a fantastic insurance industry. And bit by bit we’ve been able to provide more of those products, services and expertise to Indian firms and citizens and companies,” he said.
He also referred to India’s plans for a Sovereign Green Bond and the UK having gone through that journey would want to help India raise that capital.
“It builds on a tradition of us helping provide capital to India from across the world because one of the defining movements of capital of our time will be the flow of capital from the west into fast growing India. That’s an incredibly exciting and significant event. And the UK can really help be the place which allows India the access to the biggest pool of capital on the best possible terms to drive its growth,” he said.
In the interaction with the Indian Journalists’ Association (IJA), the senior Cabinet minister said he is “very supportive of India playing an increasingly influential role in the region, and indeed, in the world” as a massive economy and the world’s largest democracy and an FTA would prove a greater champion of that cause.
The 42-year-old UK-born Indian-origin minister, who said he is looking forward to a visit to India with his family soon, also highlighted the important role to be played by the Indian diaspora in strengthening a “partnership of equals” between the two countries.
“The UK doesn’t have a monopoly on opportunity. There’s an enormous amount of opportunity in India, we also want to make sure that if this living bridge is going to be a real thing, we have got to make it easier for people in the UK to go to India, to study at world-class institutions to go work in all these amazing start-ups,” he said.
The minister pointed to reforms in the visa system to make it easier for talented Indians to come to the UK and said there are several categories now open to talented Indians, including the new High Potential Individual visa.
“Our plan over time is to expand what we consider to be markers of high potential individuals. So that the qualifying criteria for that visa will expand over time. But that visa applies to people at the university. So, it will benefit Indian nationals… it’s an incredibly generous and powerful visa which will benefit Indian citizens who are studying at any of these [global] universities.,” he said.
And, asked if he sees himself as the first British Indian Prime Minister of the UK, he spoke of Britain’s “openness and tolerance” that someone like him was the incumbent of No. 11 Downing Street in one of the senior-most posts in the UK government.
“We need to make sure that’s not the end of the British Indian story. There’s lots more we can achieve. There’s lots more we can do. And that’s why I’m really excited about the future,” Sunak, the son-in-law of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, said.