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LONDON – Britain has only been negotiating a free trade deal with India for two months – but there are already calls for the talks to be put on hold.
A deal with India, an economic powerhouse and strategic partner for the UK, which has its sights set on the Indo-Pacific region, was an enticing prospect after Brexit.
Although it is notoriously difficult to reach such an agreement with India – Just ask the European Union – The UK took on the task with great fanfare back in January.
Now, after the end of the second discussion round, the world looks very different.
New Delhi that has close economic and defense ties with Moscow, has remained neutral on the war in Ukraine and abstained from repeated votes at the United Nations condemning Russia’s actions.
A opinion poll by BMG Research for the Department for International Trade also found that British support for a free trade agreement with India has declined in consecutive studies conducted between January 2019 and May 2021.
Some argue that Britain should postpone talks until Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s country changes its position on Ukraine. Labor MP Chris Bryant, leader of the all-party parliamentary group on Russia, said it was “absurd” that negotiations – which resumed on March 7 and ran until March 18 – were even going on.
“I would have thought this is a pivotal moment where we should try to say to India, ‘Look, you can’t abstain. You cannot abstain from committing a war crime. You cannot abstain from an illegal invasion of another country. Where’s your moral compass?’” he said.
Bate Toms, chairman of the UK-Ukraine Chamber of Commerce, said the UK should “reconsider its trade approach towards India”. Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the House of Commons Defense Committee, argued that if Russia still has “trade options with giants like India, it undermines the international community’s broader unity and determination to hold Putin accountable.”
And Scottish National Party politician Martin Docherty-Hughes, whose voter Jagtar Singh Johal has been jailed in an Indian prison for more than four years, said Britain was on a “sticky wicket” after India reverted to an “old view of the cold.” war” has returned to its role as a non-aligned nation.”
Asked about the backlash, Trade Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan told reporters on Thursday that Britain was “very disappointed” with India’s current position, “but we continue to work with Indian partners and hope that their views will change,” she said.
“Trade is about boosting economic growth and ensuring both countries can benefit from it, and India is an incredibly important trading partner for the UK,” she said, adding: “We will continue to work with countries around the world.” work together to ensure that Putin is not able to fund this war in the future.”
“We were not surprised by India’s position – it was not a departure from their usual approach to things,” said another UK Government minister. “But that doesn’t mean we were any less disappointed.”
Despite disagreements with Ukraine, negotiations with India are said to be going well. Some in the trading department were surprised at the initial good progress – with some discussion topics moving faster than expected. Whether a hoped-for interim deal can be or not What is done will depend on how much Britain is willing to give to India and how much it is willing to hold back to pressurize a deeper deal.
As countries scramble to slash ties with Russia, some nations argue they need to be more discerning about who they do business with. Labor’s Bryant partly blames David Cameron, the former British Prime Minister, for believing “you should just do as much trade as you can with every other country, including Russia”.
“I always thought that was a mistake,” he said. “You can only act on the basis of open, free and fair societies where people enjoy some level of human rights.” He added: “If India is not ready to condemn the war in Ukraine, it is difficult to see how it sides with democracy and human rights.”
A government spokesman said the UK “continues to condemn the actions of Russia in various international organizations and bodies”.
“As always, any decision to agree to a trade deal will be made at the appropriate time after negotiations are complete,” the spokesman added.
Bryant also called for renewed trade talks with China – first revealed by POLITICO – to be suspended as Beijing has not condemned Putin’s war in Ukraine.
A government spokesman said, “We want a positive and constructive relationship with China while ensuring our national security, freedom and democracy are protected, and working with allies, we will uphold China’s international commitments.”
Emilio Casalicchio contributed to the coverage.
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https://www.politico.eu/article/fallout-war-ukraine-uk-india-trade-deal-hold/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication War in Ukraine puts UK-India trade deal under scrutiny - POLITICO