Vince Cable has admitted there was a "debate" in the Cabinet about the Government's plans for a cap on immigration.
While insisting there was "no conflict" between coalition ministers, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary said he was pressing for a light-touch regime.
Downing Street aides also moved to quash suggestions of a rift over the move to impose a limit on non-EU immigrants coming to the UK.
The issue was threatening to overshadow a major British trade delegation to India, led by Prime Minister David Cameron and featuring Mr Cable among other senior ministers.
Speaking to reporters in Bangalore, the Business Secretary said he was committed to the proposed cap set out in the Tory-Lib Dem coalition agreement.
"But there clearly is a debate taking place," he went on. "It's a grown-up debate about how these rules should be administered and I have a perspective, which I bring to India as the Business Secretary and president of the Board of Trade, wanting to encourage trade and inward investment. For that reason I am making very clear the perspective I would like to bring to bear on this. It's not disagreement... there is no conflict."
Mr Cable said businesses from India and elsewhere had raised concerns with him already about the limits a cap would place on highly-skilled professionals moving to the UK.
"I have made it very clear my job around the Cabinet table is to make the case for business," he said. "We want Britain to be open for business. We want flexibility and we want these regulations, when they come in, to be administered with a light touch."
Mr Cameron said it was "perfectly legitimate" for Mr Cable to make the case for immigration's economic benefits, but that the policy on a cap has been settled by the Cabinet.
He said: "It is perfectly legitimate for the Business Secretary to argue for the advantages of free and open markets and that is what Vince does. But we decide these things in the Cabinet in a reasonable and sensible way."