Amid a diplomatic row following protests by secessionist groups near the Indian mission in London, Union commerce minister Piyush Goyal on Thursday said talks on a Free Trade Agreement with the UK are continuing.Talks are “going on very well” with the UK, Goyal said, adding, “trade stands on its own legs”.
The Union minister, however, made it clear that India will take into consideration a respect for her sovereignty and territorial integrity, and will not tolerate any interference in her Indian affairs. India’s Ministry of External Affairs summoned the senior-most British diplomat in New Delhi on a Sunday evening recently, over reports of some Khalistani elements pulling down the Indian flag at the Indian high commission in London during a protest. India has also responded by proposing or undertaking several actions, like reducing security at the British mission and constructing a public toilet there.
When asked about the impact of the ongoing events on the trade agreement, Goyal seemed to suggest that negotiations continue.”I can assure you that talks are going on very well with the UK, Canada, with the EU countries, we are also in dialogue with Israel,” he told reporters here.
Goyal said there was no deadline to have an FTA with the UK, but a former PM of the country has announced an aspiration to conclude before Diwali of 2022.”…we are back at the negotiating table, both sides are discussing at the official level,” he said. Goyal said there is a high interest for FTAs with India shown by many countries, and discussions are on at a “frenzied pace” with many countries, and quipped that he is not left with bandwidth to discuss such agreements.
Meanwhile, Goyal also said that talks are also on with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), following a request from four ministers of the grouping to meet the Indian commerce and industries minister.”They have assured me that they will be coming with very attractive proposals in terms of opening up services and a deeper understanding of India’s own concerns around our patent laws and the need to protect our domestic industry,” Goyal said.
On a query on rupee trade with partners, and if the same is being pushed with G-20 countries during the ongoing meetings of the grouping’s trade and investment group in the financial capital, Goyal said this subject is more of a bilateral subject which is anchored by the RBI and the Ministry of Finance.
He added that many countries have evinced interest in having such an arrangement with India. Goyal attended a dinner meeting with the 100 delegates attending the G-20 meeting in the financial capital on Wednesday evening, and is also addressing the delegates at the closing event later on Thursday.
Meanwhile, when asked about Parliament passing important bills sans any discussions and the treasury benches taking to protests at a time when the government is responsible for running the Houses, Goyal shot back saying the Opposition is using the platform to cast baseless and wild allegations against those in the government under the influence of forces inimical to India’s interests.”Sometimes in life, propriety, self respect and the nation’s interest overrides everything else. And this is one such occasion when we cannot allow the nation’s independence, our sovereignty, our respect to be tarnished by any individual especially on foreign soil,” he said.
The commerce minister also said that the Ram temple in Ayodhya will be ready by the end of the year and work is on at a scorching pace