British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's visit to strengthen UK-India relations
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is on a two-day visit to attend India's flagship geo-political conference Raisina Dialogue. He met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, and Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar. His visit is expected to strengthen the UK-India ties and the ambitious partnership UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Modi committed to during her Nov'16 India trip.
"As two modern, diverse democracies, the UK and India are natural partners and we are committed to working together to promote our people's prosperity, improve global security and tackle the challenges that both our countries face today."
Johnson said, "It's a tremendous pleasure to be back in India." He said UK and India share a trade relationship worth over £16bn. He added Indian companies created over 100,000 jobs in UK and sent over 160,000 brightest students in the past ten years. He stated, "I have no doubt that the UK and India share an exciting future together on the world stage."
Boris Johnson met budding Indian entrepreneurs and civil society leaders and hosted a breakfast for Indian and British business representatives and investors. He later traveled to Kolkata to meet West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee and Cricket Association of Bengal's representatives. He also attended a debating competition featuring teams from Cambridge University and the London School of Economics, marking the bicentenary of Presidency University.
The British Foreign Secretary's visit to India comes only two months after British PM Theresa May chose India as her first "port of call" outside the European Union after assuming office. Several issues like visas, trade relations, Brexit are expected to be discussed. Pending extradition of Vijay Mallya, who is currently in London and wanted by the Enforcement Directorate, is also an important issue.
India raised concerns related to visa and migration with the United Kingdom. In the last five years, the number of Indians studying in the UK dropped to 20,000 from 40,000 due to changes in post-study work visa rules. An Indian official said mobility issues are of importance and they "cannot separate free movement of people from the free flow of goods, services, and investments."
Migration expert and long-time consultant for the Indian Government on mobility issues, S Irudayarajan, said: "India is an important country for the UK. And curbing the flow of good minds, whether they are students or skilled workers, is not good for the UK."
Johnson is expected to brief India on the UK's plan to exit the European Union, seek new trade partnerships, and conclude free trade deals for goods and services. However, experts feel striking free trade deals with India, while not allowing free movement of people, wouldn't be easy. Indian officials said any talks on the "Free Trade Area" would begin only after UK leaves EU.