After more than two years, the 15th edition of India-UK Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) was held on January 16, 2023, in New Delhi. The Indian delegation was led by Vinay Mohan Kwatra, Foreign Secretary, Ministry of External Affairs, while the British side was led by Sir Philip Barton, Permanent Under-Secretary, Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO).
Notably, the last FOC was held in November 2020 in London.
External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar also met Sir Philip Barton, Permanent Under-Secretary at FCDO. They discussed the expanding bilateral relationship between India and the UK, including progress under Roadmap 2030 and other global issues.
The FOC provided an opportunity to review the progress made in the implementation of Roadmap 2030, despite the restrictions imposed by the COVID pandemic. Both sides discussed issues like trade and economic cooperation, defence and security, science and technology, people-to-people relationships, health, and climate change. Additionally, it was appreciated that letters formalizing the Young Professional Scheme were exchanged on the occasion of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas on January 9, 2023, in London, and that the scheme would be launched on February 28, 2023. Both sides aspire to the early conclusion of a balanced and comprehensive India-UK FTA that may intensify the economic engagement between the fifth and sixth biggest economies in the world.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the then UK PM Boris Johnson had signed the 2030 Roadmap for India-UK Relations in a virtual meeting on May 4, 2021. The roadmap outlines ambitions for the partnership between the two countries over the next ten years. The roadmap heralds the commencement of an ‘Enhanced Trade Partnership’ between India and the United Kingdom, with goals of doubling the value of UK-India trade by 2030 and expediting the first phase of pre-negotiations for a future free trade deal. It is also the first time since the formal ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ agreement in 2005.
It focuses on developing a “free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific region.”
Young Professional Scheme
The Governments of India and the UK launched the Young Professionals Scheme on January 9, 2023. The scheme provides 3,000 visas per year to permit young professionals from both countries to live, study, and work in the two respective countries. The scheme was a part of the Migration and Mobility MoU, which was signed in May 2021. With this, India becomes the first visa-nation country to benefit from this scheme.