By: Mohnish Singh
The free trade agreement (FTA) being negotiated between India and the UK has all the hallmarks of being a genuine global standard, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said on Wednesday.
Addressing the annual India Global Forum (IGF) UK-India Parliamentary Lunch co-hosted by the Indian High Commission, the foreign minister highlighted the partnership between the two countries in the field of climate action and indicated plans to visit India in the coming months during its G20 Presidency.
“On trade, we are well into the negotiations of what has all the hallmarks of being a genuine global standard bilateral trade relationship, because we have this wonderful bilateral relationship which I like to think of as unique,” said Cleverly.
“The similarities enable us to work so easily together, and the differences mean that we don’t have that group think which so often hampers innovation… India is really pushing at the front edge of green economic development and we are very, very keen to be good partners with you,” he said.
Labelling the India-UK relationship as “wonderful, unique, intimate and familial”, the minister shared reflections from his first-ever visit as Foreign Secretary to the country last year as a “sensory overload” and the “vibrant entrepreneurs and forward thinkers” he met.
“People who have been absolutely the foundation stone of the UK’s economic vibrancy over many, many decades and a whole range of exciting technological ideas. These ideas will help to make the world cleaner, greener, healthier, happier, and more prosperous place,” he said.
“I very much look forward to India hosting the Presidency of the G20 and I have no doubt that it is going to be every bit as exciting and energising as every other part of Indian society. And, I cannot wait for the opportunity to go back,” he added.
Indian High Commissioner to the UK Vikram Doraiswami focussed his address on the importance of building on the historic ties to look to the future of the relationship.
“The essence of a partnership is identifying what we are respectively good at, what we need from each other, and finding ways in which we can jointly achieve those goals in a manner that is mutually beneficial,” said Doraiswami.
“History is an important guide, it tells us what we have, where we came from, and how we came to be together. But no friendship moves forward by looking only at the past and our friendship must be based on the values of the past, values that we share, but in the road ahead that we see,” he said.
With reference to the 74th Republic Day celebrations this week, the diplomat hailed India’s remarkable Constitution which created “equality of expectation in every citizen of India, regardless of race, creed, ethnicity or gender” from the very start and reiterated the shared belief in democracy as the cementing force behind the bilateral ties.
The parliamentary lunch, on the banks of the River Thames, also marked the launch of a new UK-India Future Forum (UKIFF) to facilitate high-level engagement between business leaders and policymakers.
“UKIFF will focus on advancing high-impact strategic partnerships and investment flows, with technology and modern science at the core,” said Professor Manoj Ladwa, Founder and Chairman of UK-based India Global Forum.
“Its launch at this important event in the UK-India calendar comes at a time when this partnership is well poised for the next phase of impactful growth,” he said.