From resolving trade, migration issues to cooperation on Indo-Pacific security: Key highlights of India-UK vision 2030

India and UK's trade ministers formally signed the Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP) on Wednesday and will be back on the negotiating tables in autumn (September to December) this year for a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

The trade and investment agreement worth around 1 billion pounds has been pegged as aiming for a "quantum leap" in the UK-India relationship, with India elevating the status of its relationship with the UK to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”.

The sign-off follows talks between India prime minister Narendra Modi and UK prime minister Boris Johnson, which culminated in the two leaders agreeing on a ‘2030 Roadmap’ as a framework for strengthening ties across health, climate, trade, education, science and technology, and defence.

The two sides inked nine pacts providing for the expansion of cooperation in an array of areas including migration and mobility, digital and technology, telecommunications, energy and medicines, besides agreeing to boost collaboration in dealing with climate change through a new partnership on renewables and power.

Here are the key highlights of the 10-year roadmap:

1. Vaccine cooperation

Following on the successful Oxford-AstraZaneca-SII collaboration on the COVID-19 vaccine, the two countries have agreed to expand partnership on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics on COVID19 and beyond through joint research including on nasal vaccines, regulatory and clinical trial cooperation.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs, the Innovation Partnership agreed between the two sides holds great promise on working together in areas such as vaccine development and genome sequencing.

The Serum Institute of India (SII) would make an investment of GBP 240 million in the UK into its vaccine business and a new sales office in the country, expected to generate new business worth over $1 billion, according to a statement from Johnson's office.

2. Migration and mobility: work visas, extradition, etc

The two countries would implement a comprehensive Migration and Mobility Partnership covering the movement of students and professionals as well as irregular migration keeping in view the UK’s new skills-based immigration policy no later than April 2022.

A new Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement signed between the countries earlier this week partly takes care of some of the migration-related issues.

The agreement, in the form of a memorandum of understanding (MoU), will offer a route for young people aged 18-30 to live and work in either country for up to two years. India, in return, would take back illegal migrants living in the UK as a clampdown on immigration fraud.

The two countries also agreed to work on signing a diplomatic visa waiver arrangement/MOU to facilitate official exchanges.

Enhancing cooperation under the bilateral extradition and mutual legal assistance treaties to facilitate the speedy conclusion of extradition requests from both sides is also part of the 10-year vision.

Briefing reporters on the summit, the external affairs ministry said the issue of extradition of Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi figured in the talks.

3. Defence and politics: Indo-Pacific Agenda

A joint statement said the two sides also affirmed their shared vision of an open, free, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region, underpinned by respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation and overflight in the international seas, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peaceful resolution of disputes.

According to the MEA, as part of the British tilt to Indo-Pacific, the UK has announced the deployment of Carrier Strike Group in the Indo-Pacific Region. India, on its part, has agreed to conduct joint exercises with the CSG later this year and also launch a new maritime dialogue.

India and UK have also agreed to substantially strengthen their defence and security engagement including in the maritime, counter-terrorism and cyberspace domains.

The joint statement also said the two sides agreed that there is a promising new era ahead for India-UK collaboration on key military technologies including combat aircraft, maritime propulsion system and complex weapons and deliver the next generation of defence and security capabilities through co-development and co-production.

The two countries have also agreed to enhance the high-level and ministerial contacts, as well cooperate with each at world fora including the UNSC, UNFCC, WTO, World Bank, etc.

4. Trade: ETP now, FTA by mid-2022

The ETP signed between the UK and India is a commitment or an early market access package to "build confidence" as they work towards fulfilling certain trade-related promises to each other. These include the promise to: a) double trade between UK-India by 2030; b) negotiate a comprehensive FTA, set to start in September 2021; c) reduce barriers to trade in key industries.

Under this package, the UK will open up the fisheries sector for more Indian players, facilitate more opportunities for nurses, recognise Indian seafarers certificates and also enter into a joint dialogue on the social security agreement.

In return, India has agreed to UK's asks on fruits, medical devices, and mutual recognition of masters degrees and also work towards the reciprocal opening of legal services. These actions are likely to generate 20-25,000 new direct and indirect jobs in India, the MEA said.

According to a statement from Johnson's office, "more than 6,500 new jobs will be created around the UK thanks to the one billion pounds of new UK-India trade and investment announced by the Prime Minister today."

The package contains over 533 million pounds of new Indian investment into the UK, which is expected to create more than 6,000 jobs in vital and growing sectors such as health and technology, Downing Street said. This includes the investment to be made by the SII.

5. Addressing climate change

During the meeting, both Modi and Johnson reaffirmed their personal commitment to taking ambitious climate action in pursuit of the goals of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in the run-up to the 26th Conference of Parties and beyond.

They agreed to work together to reach an ambitious, transparent and inclusive negotiated climate outcome at Glasgow.

As per the MEA, both the countries agreed to step up India-UK collaboration on climate change and low carbon transition through a new partnership on renewables and power, including offshore wind, energy efficiency and storage and electric mobility, and to explore joint work on green hydrogen.

Modi and Johnson also agreed to announce a green grids initiative at COP26 and to promote climate-resilient infrastructure through a new facility for small island developing states under the coalition for disaster-resilient infrastructure and to launch an India-UK partnership on forests.

With inputs from PTI