In a sign of continuing tensions in the Conservative-led coalition Government over its plans to impose an annual cap on immigration from non-European Union countries, Business Secretary and senior Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable has again warned that such a move could affect relations with countries like India.

Mr Cable used a speech at the London-based Indian Journalists’ Association’s annual dinner to reiterate his opposition to the idea of an artificial rigid limit on immigration, especially from countries with whom Britain wanted to build strong trade relations.

Alluding to Prime Minister David Cameron’s backing for the proposed cap, he said he was aware of the "risk of being pulled up by the headmaster’’ for disagreeing with the idea. He insisted that he wanted to "see liberal flows of people’’ between India and Britain.

During his visit to India recently with Mr Cameron, Mr Cable assured Indian leaders and businesses that the cap would be implemented in a “flexible’’ way to take into account their concerns.

His assurance came after Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma was reported as saying that the proposed curbs would “hurt’’ economic engagement between the two countries.

Leading British businesses have also warned that a cap, set to come into force in April next year, could create a shortage of skilled professionals and might force them to relocate jobs abroad, including India.

Mr Cable, whose late first wife was Indian, said he was struck by the "extraordinary transformation’’ that had taken place in India. He said there was a "huge potential’’ for closer trade ties with India. He accused the previous Labour Government of neglecting relations with India and said: “We are going to rebuild it’’.

Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt, who is to visit India, soon, likened his “sense of anticipation’’ to that of a first date.

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