India Finance Minister Arun Jaitley
Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley says Brexit vote was not indicative of a 'protectionist' stance by the British public. Reuters

Brexit should not be interpreted as a "protectionist exercise" by the UK, according to one of the most senior ministers in Indian government.

Speaking in London on Monday (27 February), Arun Jaitley, India's minister of finance, said: "A considerable amount of time has lapsed since the Brexit vote, and over that period I have had several positive exchanges with trade and finance counterparts in the British government.

"The policy message doesn't read like a protectionist hymn sheet, rather a call for openness and trade on London's own terms with global partners."

Following a meeting with UK trade minister Greg Hands, Jaitley remarked there was a recognition both in London and Delhi that "trade helps foster growth" and common ground would be found.

The Indian minister also saw no hurdles to an informal dialogue on bilateral trade between India and the UK in the run up to Brexit. However, he attached a caveat that "formal dialogue cannot begin" until London has exited Brussels' framework.

"We are not talking about a one-way flow of investment, so finer points will need to be worked out in the interests of both governments. We have had excellent relations with the UK for decades and I fully expect that to continue."

Earlier in the day, Jaitley met a delegation of Indian and British chief executive officers. "I found enthusiasm for co-operation between both sets of business heads, especially in fintech, infrastructure and services arena. I have conveyed my message to counterparts in the UK government that we view the [post-Brexit] climate as an opportunity for mutual investment."

The Indian finance minister also said he had raised the thorny issue of tycoon Vijay Mallya, whose failed Kingfisher Airlines owes $1.4bn (£1.1bn, €1.3bn) to 17 different financial institutions in India, and has refused leave the UK to answer pending claims against him.

Indian police have already issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against Mallya and are seeking his extradition. For his part, the tycoon has dismissed the proceedings as "politically motivated" and has refused to visit his homeland since the legal action began.

Jaitley said: "We take defaults very seriously. We have raised the matter with the British authorities at the highest level and have sent a strong message. The government is determined to recover the last rupee owed to Indian taxpayers."