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India-UK free trade agreement will miss the Diwali deadline, according to a report

Although the cause of the delay was unclear, previous roadblocks included India's need for more business and student visas as well as a high import duty on British whisky.

In New Delhi: Two sources in New Delhi told Reuters on Friday that a free trade agreement between India and the UK will not be completed in time for Diwali, which falls in late October, although it was not immediately obvious what was causing the delay.

Previous causes of contention have included India’s demand for more visas for Indian students and entrepreneurs, as well as a high import duty on British whisky sold in India.

Then-British Prime Minister Boris Johnson stated that he and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had committed to reach an agreement by the Hindu festival, which falls on October 24 this year, after their meeting in New Delhi in April. By 2030, the goal is to double current levels of bilateral trade ($31 billion).

Prior to a formal announcement, the sources declined to be identified, but Arindam Bagchi, a spokesman for India’s foreign ministry, said the Diwali deadline was not set in stone.

“There was a general goal of trying to get it done by Diwali. But goals are dependent on negotiations,” he told a news conference on Friday. “So let me not complicate the negotiators’ lives by saying it has to be done by a certain date.”

When asked if India’s demand for more visas was stalling talks, Bagchi dodged the question but stated that both nations had reached an arrangement on “mobility and consular affairs” that would require “mutual implementation.”

Foreign and trade departments in Britain and India did not immediately reply to calls for comment.

A agreement with India by Diwali is still a goal for the British government, according to a spokesman for Prime Minister Liz Truss, but speed will not come at the expense of quality.

In response to reported remarks made by interior minister Suella Braverman regarding the potential impact of Indian migrants in Britain, British foreign minister James Cleverly said that his country wants to have an even greater commercial connection with India on Thursday.

S. Jaishankar, the foreign minister of India, wrote on Twitter that he spoke with Cleverly and that they “discussed different elements of our bilateral relationship” and that they were looking forward to a soon-to-be-scheduled in-person meeting.

In addition to more visas, India wants to export more leather, textiles, jewellery, and food items to Britain, and Britain wants to sell more whiskey to India by lowering the 150% import charge.

Additionally, Reuters reported last week that Indian automakers had proposed lowering the tax rate on imported cars, which is currently 60% to 100%, to 30% as part of a trade agreement with Britain.

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