On Tuesday, on the sidelines of the G20 summit 2022 in Bali, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a brief meeting with UK PM Rishi Sunak.
“Prime Ministers @narendramodi and @RishiSunak in conversation during the first day of the @g20org Summit in Bali,” confirmed the PMO in a tweet.
Sunak, who recently assumed the UK’s top position after his predecessor Liz Truss quit in 50 days, met with PM Modi on the first day of the G20 summit. Hours after the two global leaders of Indian origin met, the UK cleared an immigration scheme that reportedly approved 3,000 visas for young professionals from India to work in the UK each year.
After the two leaders met for the first time since Sunak took the reins as the PM of the nation, his office released a statement that read, “India is the first visa-national country to benefit from such a scheme, highlighting the strength of the UK-India Migration and Mobility Partnership agreed last year.”
This scheme is expected to bring the two countries closer than ever. Earlier, Britain’s Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who is also of Indian-origin, gave an interview to the British weekly magazine ‘The Spectator’, during which she commented that Indian immigrants amount to the ‘largest group’ of people who overstay their visas in the UK.
She had also hinted that she would not back the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the two nations if it offered greater visa concessions to India. “I have concerns about having an open borders migration policy with India because I don’t think that’s what people voted for with Brexit,” Braverman told the media.
However, India’s contributions to the UK cannot be ignored. Indians make up a good number of the UK’s total immigrant population, and nearly a ‘quarter’ of its international students are Indian.
Considering the ties between the two countries, Sunak said, “I know first-hand the incredible value of the deep cultural and historic ties we have with India. I am pleased that even more of India’s brightest young people will now have the opportunity to experience all that life in the UK has to offer – and vice-versa – making our economies and societies richer.”
His cabinet’s approval for the immigration scheme is a pleasant news as the move will strengthen the previously agreed-upon ‘Migration and Mobility Partnership’ between UK and India. The scheme will cater to 18-30-year-old ‘degree-educated’ Indian nationals, giving them a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity to be part of a ‘professional and cultural’ exchange between the two countries. The ‘reciprocal route’ is expected to open in early 2023.
India and Britain are also in talks about the FTA, which if enforced, will be India’s first FTA with a European country. Despite the progression in the immigration scheme, Sunak told the UK media that he won’t “sacrifice quality for speed”.
Before leaving for the G20 summit, Sunak had addressed the reporters and said that he will reopen the conversation on the matter soon, however, adding that quality wouldn’t be sacrificed for speed. “And that goes for all trade deals. It’s important that we get them right rather than rush,” he had said.
Reports say that India will soon have visitors from the UK delegation in December to speed up the process, as both the countries missed the last decided date in October to finish the negotiations.
The new aim is to finalise the talks within a span of four months, so that ultimately, the double bilateral trade between the countries can come into full effect by 2030.