India and the UK are committed to delivering a comprehensive and balanced free trade agreement (FTA) by the end of this year along with an interim deal for early gains, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Wednesday. Addressing the First India-UK Strategic Futures Forum, Shringla said the Roadmap 2030 launched by both countries details comprehensive plans for the relationship over the next 10 years and also serves as a useful instrument to actively monitor and pursue agreed priorities.
"The potential for a transformative change is most evident in our economic relationship. India and the UK are the 5th and 6th largest economies in the world that enjoy huge complementarities and offer tremendous opportunities for growth on both sides," Shringla said. A major step in this direction was taken last year when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Boris Johnson launched the India-UK Enhanced Trade Partnership that aims to more than double bilateral trade by 2030.
"Bilateral trade negotiations that began early this year have been put on a fast track. Two rounds have already taken place with the last round in mid-March witnessing good progress. Both sides are committed to delivering a comprehensive and balanced FTA by the end of this year along with an interim deal for early gains," Shringla said. "We are also building a strong financial partnership with closer cooperation in fintech, market regulation, and sustainable and green finance," he said.
Noting that defence and security is another key element of the India-UK renewed partnership, Shringla said the focus is on research and innovation and joint industrial cooperation to develop advanced defence capabilities and strengthen collaboration in tackling new threats in the cyber, space, counter-terrorism and maritime domains. "We are keen to overcome legacy issues and engage in a robust dialogue to promote greater alignment on defence and strategic issues, including in the context of the Indo-Pacific," he said.
India welcomes the UK's Indo-Pacific strategy and its desire to deepen engagement in the region as reflected in the deployment of the Carrier Strike Group to the Indo-Pacific last year, he said. This interest of the UK has the potential to contribute to regional stability and support shared prosperity, he added.
"Our interests are also aligned in securing trusted and resilient supply chains for strategic technologies like 5G," Shringla said. He noted that as the world faced a pandemic of unprecedented proportions, India and the UK joined hands in bringing in game-changing solutions.
A notable success was the collaboration between Oxford Astra Zeneca and the Serum Institute of India, he said. "We are partners in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Initiative (CEPI) that has an ambitious 100-day plan to develop vaccines to deal with future pandemics and strengthen global preparedness," Shringla said.
In today's highly charged international security situation, India and the UK have worked closely in the UN Security Council to address global challenges that threaten international peace and security, he said. "We also work together on other areas of interest in the multilateral arena, including sustainable development, protecting the environment, blue economy and maritime security, health etc.," he said.
This mutual cooperation defines our modern partnership and has allowed India and the UK to take leadership in tackling global challenges in areas like climate change, clean energy and global health, Shringla said.