By Aditi Khanna :
THE UK-India dialogue on the roadmap towards accelerated talks on a free trade agreement (FTA), with an interim agreement factored in, is “going well” and will see “good progress” in the coming months, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Saturday. At the conclusion of his two-day visit to London to take stock of the Roadmap 2030 agreed between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson in May, the Foreign Secretary said he held a range of meetings with UK interlocutors on the full spectrum of issues and does not foresee any roadblocks in the process. A visit to India by Johnson is being considered around September, with Prime Minister Modi expected to visit the UK for the COP26 climate summit in November and Shringla’s visit is said to have been organised at short notice to keep up the “intensive engagement” ahead of those high-level summits.
“There are several aspects to the roadmap, including the trade and investment aspect, where the Enhanced Trade Partnership envisages accelerated talks that can lead up to a comprehensive free trade agreement. The possibility of an interim agreement is also factored into that,” Shringla told reporters. “Both sides agree those talks are going well. We will see some good progress in that regard,” he said. Asked about any roadblocks in the way of the Roadmap 2030 for closer UK-India ties, the Foreign Secretary noted: “While here, we reviewed the entire range of issues and we didn’t find anything which is insurmountable. Most of it is what we can do to continue to maintain the momentum.
“The relationship is important enough for us to ensure there is focus at high levels, in both capitals.” The Indian High Commissioner to UK, Gaitri Issar Kumar, added that the Indian mission in London remains “very, very alert” to any roadblocks and have been engaging day to day to ensure progress in the dialogue at all levels.