"making our economies and societies richer.”
Rishi Sunak has given the go-ahead for 3,000 visas for young Indian professionals to work in the UK each year.
The move represents an olive branch to Delhi after an outraged Indian government halted trade deal plans in response to Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s comments about Indian migrants.
Mr Sunak said it formed part of a “new tilt” towards the Indo-Pacific region which will become a greater priority in UK foreign policy under his premiership.
But he distanced himself from the deadline-driven approach to trade deals adopted by his predecessors Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, insisting he would not “sacrifice quality for speed”.
As PM, Boris Johnson pledged to complete the Indian deal, with a value estimated by the government at £24 billion, by Diwali.
But with the UK government seemingly unwilling to budge on India’s demand for more work and study visas, the date passed without an agreement.
An initial agreement on the UK-India Young Professionals Scheme was reached by then home secretary Priti Patel in 2021, as part of a deal which will also make it easier for Britain to return individuals who overstay their visas.
But it had not yet come into effect, and Mr Sunak’s final green light was needed for the first young people to come to the UK in early 2023.
Under the scheme, 3,000 Indian graduates aged 18-30 will be offered visas each year to live and work in the UK for up to two years.
The same number of Brits are able to work in India.
Downing Street described it as “a significant moment both for our bilateral relationship with India and the UK’s wider commitment to forging stronger links with the Indo-Pacific region to strengthen both our economies”.
Hailing the visa scheme, Mr Sunak said:
“I know first-hand the incredible value of the deep cultural and historic ties we have with India.
“I am pleased that even more of India’s brightest young people will now have the opportunity to experience all that life in the UK has to offer – and vice versa – making our economies and societies richer.”
But he made clear he did not expect it to trigger the swift conclusion of trade talks.
Mr Sunak continued: “I think the India trade deal is obviously a fantastic opportunity for the UK and I talked to prime minister Modi about it when we spoke and no doubt we’ll be talking about it again when we meet this week.
“But I wouldn’t sacrifice quality for speed. And that goes for all trade deals.
“It’s important that we get them right rather than rush them and so that’s the approach I’ll take on trade deals.”
The relationship with India was part of a shift in priorities towards Asia in the wake of Brexit, which has also seen the UK begin the process of joining the regional CPTPP trade bloc and forge the Aukus military alliance with the US and Australia.
Mr Sunak added: “The Indo-Pacific is increasingly crucial for our security and our prosperity.
“It is teeming with dynamic and fast-growing economies, and the next decade will be defined by what happens in this region.”