Is it safe for UK to do free-trade deal with India?

The issue for Sunak is that if a trade deal between UK & India were to be reached, it would very certainly be of significant additional financial value to the business in which his own wife already has a very large financial interest. This presents a problem for Sunak.

Rishi Sunak is on the lookout for encouraging information despite the fact that the economy is continuing to struggle and the upcoming general election is drawing near. In the following month, he will be in New Delhi for the G20 summit, which is a visit that will be exceptionally abundant with possibilities to take pictures and to negotiate business agreements. Both of Sunak’s parents are of Indian Punjabi heritage, and Sunak’s wife, Akshata Murthy, is an extremely successful Indian businesswoman, fashion designer, and venture investor. Sunak is also of Indian Punjabi descent. It will feel like coming home in many ways for the only Asian couple who have ever occupied No. 10 Downing Street.

Kemi Badenoch, who serves as the business and trade secretary for Sunak, has spent the past few days in India, where she has been setting the groundwork for a series of announcements with her G20 counterparts. Unavoidably, a significant portion of the conversation in British and Indian diplomatic, business, and trade circles has revolved around the prospect of a trade agreement between the UK and India after the UK leaves the European Union (Brexit). The two governments had planned to reach an agreement by the fall of last year, but the negotiations have been drawn out.

For Sunak, it would be a huge win if the fifth and sixth largest economies in the world, India and the United Kingdom, could come to an agreement to lower tariffs on UK exports like Scotch whiskey and vehicles while also increasing access for Indian workers to the United Kingdom. However, there are problems that are concerning Downing Street. India already occupies the number one spot on the list of countries that send the most citizens to the UK. The number of Indian health and care employees migrating to the United Kingdom increased by 81% between June 2022 and June 2023, going from 18,570 to 33,669. Additionally, Indians came out on top in other areas.

Even while Brexit supporters in Sunak’s party are yearning for evidence that “global Britain” is a reality, they might not be happy to learn that the flip side of liberalized post-EU trading arrangements means replacing EU workers with people from farther afield.

However, there is another worry that is constantly being discussed within No. 10 Downing Street and the Foreign Office. In exchange for decreasing tariffs on UK exports to Indian markets, the Indian government is requesting an increase in the number of visas that are available for skilled workers such as IT specialists who work for Indian technology companies that have invested in Britain. India also wants to see increased opportunities for young Indians to study and work in the UK.

Infosys, the enormous global leader in digital services and consulting that was co-founded by Akshata Murthy’s father NR Narayana Murthy, is one of the primary businesses that has an interest in acquiring additional temporary visas to the United Kingdom. When the Sunday Times published its 2023 Rich List in May, Akshata’s position in the company was accounted for as the great bulk of the Sunak family’s wealth. Despite the fact that Akshata only owns a 0.93% stake in the company, it is nevertheless worth £481.2 million.

“New-age technology such as generative AI, blockchain, and machine learning have widened the demand-supply gap,” said Shivendra Singh, vice-president and head of global trade at Nasscom, the industry group for the information technology industry. We aim to make it simpler for people who work in information technology to travel to the United Kingdom temporarily to fill vacancies on projects there and then return home. They will travel there and then come back. This has no effect whatsoever on migration on the net.”

Infosys submitted 2,500 visa applications to the United Kingdom in 2019, mostly so that it could bring its employees into the nation to work on huge outsourced information technology contracts in the UK. Because it is such a massive corporation, the company is able to get its point over to the Indian government.

Already, many are questioning whether or not there is a conflict of interest. What course of action should the Sunaks take? “This is what No. 10 has worried about for some time,” said one source who was aware of the thinking at the top of government on the matter.

“There is a great deal of concern about perception, what it would look like to people, and there is a worry that, one day, someone will connect the dots.”


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