A comprehensive strategic partnership backed up by an ambitious Roadmap 2030 for closer cooperation over the next 10 years were the highlights for India-UK relations this year, which closes with the promise of free trade agreement (FTA) talks scheduled to kick-start in January 2022.
The comprehensive aspect of the partnership was on display at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow hosted by Britain, where Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson enhanced their International Solar Alliance (ISA) collaboration with the launch of a pioneering Green Grids Initiative.
However, the year started with pandemic-induced travel disruption as Johnson cancelled his India visit - where he was to be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations.
There were further cancelled travel plans as the Delta variant took hold around the world and took the proposed Johnson-Modi meeting virtual in May, when they launched the Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP).
It set the clock ticking on a full-fledged FTA as part of Roadmap 2030, with the intention to at least double bilateral trade from the current GBP 24 billion a year in 10 years' time.
"India is, of course, one of our most significant export markets, and I look forward to launching our trade talks soon with them," UK International Trade Secretary Anne Marie-Trevelyan said recently, as the minister set to lead the FTA charge.
The Department for International Trade (DIT) has confirmed that talks are set to kick-start early in 2022, with plans for early harvest agreements also in play.
"We look forward to launching negotiations early next year. India is projected to become the world's third largest economy by 2050, and a trade deal will open huge opportunities for UK businesses to trade with India's GBP 2 trillion economy," a UK government spokesperson said.
The India-UK FTA marks a significant goal for the Johnson-led British government, which assumed power in December 2019 with a very defined mission to "get Brexit done" and then open up Global Britain for trade with allies in the strategically important Indo-Pacific region.
The UK used its presidency of the Group of Seven (G7) countries - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, US and UK as well as the European Union (EU) - to send out a clear message by inviting India to the Leaders' Summit held in Cornwall in June.
Once again COVID played havoc with travel plans, this time for Modi's proposed G7 visit to the UK - which was to materialize only later in the year for COP26, when India set out an ambitious renewable energy agenda.
At the G7, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar stepped in to attend the Foreign Ministers' segment of the multilateral forum and also used his UK visit to formalize an "unprecedented" India-UK Migration and Mobility Partnership with UK Home Secretary Priti Patel.
Source : economictimes.indiatimes.com