Justice minister Shailesh Vara has begun a three-day visit to India to promote better trade relations with the UK.
Vara will visit Delhi and Ahmedabad this week to meet a series of Indian ministers, lawyers and law colleges.
His trip is expected to focus on efforts to open up the Indian legal jurisdiction by lifting current restrictions on foreign lawyers practising in the country.
Despite a number of ministerial visits in the past, India’s legal profession has rejected root-and-branch liberalisation – partly due to concerns that domestic law firms would not be able to compete with UK entrants. It is three years this month since the then justice secretary Kenneth Clarke hailed a ‘new era’ in legal business relations between the two jurisdictions, amid talk a timetabled ‘road map’ for liberalisation had been agreed. But little progress has been made.
Vara has already met the chairman of the Bar Council of Delhi and other senior Indian lawyers, with the minister expected to give a speech at the Gujurat National Law University on Wednesday.
An MoJ spokesman said the visit is intended to build on links that already exist between the Indian and UK legal professions, as well as promote the Global Law Summit in London next February.
Vara said: ‘The relationship between Britain and India is long and solid, and I am keen to strengthen it even further for the benefit of both nations.
‘I have a number of meetings and events, both in New Delhi and Ahmedabad, during which I will be discussing matters of mutual interest between our two countries.’
The minister, MP for North West Cambridgeshire, already has close links to India. A Gujarati speaker, he was awarded the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman by the Indian Government earlier this year. He is also the first person of Gujarati origin to serve as a British government minister.