India and the UK are carrying out intensive discussions for a free trade agreement as both sides are keen to conclude it at the earliest, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said on Friday amid indication that the previously-set Diwali deadline for the ambitious deal could be difficult to meet.
The MEA’s comments came in the backdrop of UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman expressing reservations over the proposed pact on the grounds that it could increase immigration to the UK and go against the goals of Brexit.”As we have said before, there is interest on both sides to conclude the free trade agreement at the earliest… I think Diwali was set as a goal, but that’s only a goal,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said at a media briefing.
“I understand that intensive discussions are underway towards this and it’s continuing,” he said.The Diwali deadline for the FTA was set by the then British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in April when the former visited India.Asked about the current status of the negotiations or specific deadline for the deal, he referred to negotiators from the commerce ministry.There have been indications that the deadline for concluding the FTA may be pushed to November and that the two sides could aim for an early harvest deal to be followed by a comprehensive one.
Bagchi also chose not to comment on Braverman’s remarks.”I wouldn’t like to get into the comments by the UK home secretary… but just to perhaps mention that all negotiations are a part of give and take and it needs to be a win-win for both sides,” he said.In her interview to The Spectator, Braverman said, “I have concerns about having an open borders migration policy with India because I don’t think that’s what people voted for with Brexit.” Bagchi said India always strongly encourages legal migration, and if they need to come back, they will come back.
He said there is a process for that. Bagchi said migration and mobility is an important element and there was an understanding between the two sides on it, adding India expects that both sides would honour it. The MEA spokesperson said India is certainly taking action on its part and it expects the UK side to also show “demonstratable actions” on that as mentioned by the Indian High Commission in London in a statement.The High Commission countered Braverman’s claim that the Migration and Mobility Partnership (MMP) had not “worked very well”. It said India awaits “demonstrable progress” on certain commitments undertaken by the UK government under the MMP that was signed last year.
“As part of our wider discussions under Migration and Mobility, the government of India is committed to working with the government of the UK to facilitate the return of Indian citizens who have overstayed their visa period here in the UK,” the High Commission of India said.