Visa tensions on May's India trip

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Narendra Modi and Theresa MayImage source, PA

If Theresa May was seeking to ramp up UK-India trade in smiles, salutes and friendly rhetoric, she'd have a world class deal already.

The prime minister shared a long lunch, a long chat and two public platforms with her Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, in New Delhi and she's sure to spend more time in future cultivating a personal and economic relationship she sees as vital to British prosperity after Brexit.

But sealing a comprehensive trade deal demands more than smiles and salutes.

'Brightest and best'

India wants more visas for students and workers. Theresa May has shown no inclination to offer any broad commitment to a more liberal approach to Indian migration.

There is no cap on visa numbers. The official UK line is Britain's doors are open to the "brightest and the best". Yet the UK is widely seen in India as wanting "free trade in everything except people".

And Mrs May's anxiety to reduce net migration into the UK to the tens of thousands is well-known and frequently stated.

Today the prime minister promised to allow Indian travellers, maybe 10,000 over the coming two years, to pass UK immigration more easily at ports and airports - as easily as UK travellers.

Daunting challenges

Successful high value travellers, of the kind most countries are keen to welcome, would have extra help and advice for their families and themselves.

However, Mrs May also wants India to do more to facilitate the return of Indians who have overstayed their legal limit in the UK. That might mean more effort approving the documentation needed to return an overstayer home.

Again, the British desire to bear down on net migration lies at the root of a tension in relations between the two countries.

If Britain is going to make a success of Brexit in the broadest sense, it is vital to cultivate India, a trade market which has shrunk even as the Indian economy has grown.

The political obstacles at home on the road to Brexit have yet to be negotiated. The challenges beyond already look daunting.

Boycott stumps for May

Image source, PA

Swashbuckling, dashing, gloriously reckless. Just a few of the epithets you'll never, ever, see applied to Theresa May. Yet it's hard to think of anyone who's had a more successful few months in today's politics. If she was a cricketer, she'd be Geoffrey Boycott.

And if the Yorkshire and England cricket legend was here in New Delhi, he'd probably sing her praises. Which, as it happens, he is and he did.

"She'll be like Margaret Thatcher," he told an admiring gaggle of cricket-loving journos who spotted him the the Taj Palace Hotel.

"She's good. She doesn't need my advice. She's got a few more strokes than me."

"She has views and she's strong. Life is about integrity and principles - it should be. We want politicians like that with integrity, with principles, with honesty."

As any Test Match Special listener could tell you, when Geoffrey likes someone, he says so.

And generally doesn't stop.