British Prime Minister Theresa May plans to visit India in the second week of November. Sources close to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has hinted that PM May will visit the South Asian country when the India-UK Tech Summit will take place in New Delhi on November 7-9.
However, it is still not clear whether PM May will attend the summit to be jointly organised by India’s Department of Science and Technology and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). This year, British Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Jo Johnson will deliver the keynote address at the Summit.
The nature of Indo-British partnership has changed, with Britain voting to leave the European Union (EU) a couple of months back. A senior Indian Ministry of External Affairs official has said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is eager to meet the first post-Brexit British premier, as his top most priority is to boost trade ties with Britain by signing a bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
PM May, too, has indicated that her government will bolster trade and business ties with India, saying: “Countries, including Canada, China, India, Mexico, Singapore and South Korea, have already told us they would welcome talks on future FTAs. And we have already agreed to start scoping discussions on trade agreements with Australia and New Zealand.” In New Delhi, the visiting premier will mainly discuss trade-related issues with her Indian counterpart and other senior ministers.
In recent past, India made clear that it was ready to become Britain’s biggest trade partner outside the EU. As the relation between India and European bloc has deteriorated due to various reasons, New Delhi is trying hard to attract British investors. At the same time, India plans to raise the issue of new plans for immigration curbs announced by Prime Minister May (at the recent Conservative Party conference) during her visit to the country. New Delhi is well aware of the fact that the British government’s proposed move would affect Indian professionals and students. The Indian PM will remind his guest that she had promised an easier immigration policy (post-Brexit) for Indian and other Commonwealth professionals during the Brexit campaign.
In the changing geopolitical landscape in South Asia, the British PM will be asked to clear London’s stand on the “Kashmir” issue. Although Britain condemned the September 18 Uri attack in a statement, the May administration angered India by calling Jammu and Kashmir as “Indian-administered Kashmir”, which (according to India) is basically Pakistan’s conception of the northern Indian province.