Against the backdrop of reports casting doubts over the progress of the UK-India free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations, a parliamentary delegation from the UK touring India this week reaffirmed that the talks remain on track.
The India (Trade & Investment) All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) cross-party representatives arrived in New Delhi this week for a parliamentary visit of its kind after a gap of several years. APPG co-chair Lord Karan Bilimoria and President Baroness Sandy Verma both reiterated that topics related to the FTA – with officials on both sides concluding the eighth round of discussions at the end of last month – were very much on their agenda.
Lord Bilimoria said: “This is a watershed moment in the UK-India relationship with a FTA close to being concluded. The potential to take trade, business and investment between our two countries, with a truly special relationship is huge and although we are still scratching the surface, this visit will be a catalyst in helping fulfill this enormous potential.
“We will be meeting and interacting with government, business and academia – in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Pune and Mumbai. And I know that our cross-party delegation will gain tremendous insights and build important relationships with individuals at the heart of our bilateral partnership.”
Facilitated by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), the delegation’s discussions will be geared towards exploring two-way trade and research and development collaborations.
Baroness Verma noted: “It is long overdue as the last parliamentary delegation to India was six years ago. We are looking forward to engaging with senior Indian ministers to discuss matters ranging from the FTA to green technology, to gender inclusivity.
“Research and development is a key thematic area of the UK-India relationship and the delegation will explore further ways to enhance it. In particular, new university collaborations and opportunities for technology transfer.”
The India (Trade and Investment) APPG was created last year to coincide with the 75th anniversary of India’s independence and is made up of 25 British members of Parliament and peers of different political affiliations. With a stated goal to promote trade and investment between India and the UK for the mutual betterment of their citizens, whilst building an inclusive diaspora living bridge between the two countries, the new APPG is geared towards supporting the FTA negotiations and promoting its benefits once concluded.
Following media reports earlier this week claiming that the FTA talks had been stalled by India amid security concerns related to Khalistani separatists, both governments denied any such development.
A UK Department for Business and Trade spokesperson said: “Both the UK and India are committed to delivering an ambitious and mutually beneficial FTA and concluded the latest round of trade talks last month.
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“The Foreign Secretary has condemned the recent acts of violence at the Indian High Commission, and we are working with the Metropolitan Police to review security and make changes to ensure the safety of its staff.”