PM Modi congratulates Keir Starmer for winning UK elections, India hopes Labour Party’s Corbyn-era anti-India stance now a thing of past

The Labour Party had promised in its poll manifesto that its government would seek “a new strategic partnership” between London and New Delhi, including a Free Trade Agreement.
Last Updated : 05 July 2024, 11:32 IST

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday took to X to congratulate his new United Kingdom counterpart Keir Starmer, who had already promised not only a Free Trade Agreement but also a “new strategic partnership” with India.

“Heartiest congratulations and best wishes to @Keir_Starmer on the remarkable victory in the UK general elections,” Modi wrote on X, tagging the Labour Party leader, who took over as the prime minister of the UK after leading his party to a landslide victory in the general elections to the House of Commons. “I look forward to our positive and constructive collaboration to further strengthen the India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in all areas, fostering mutual growth and prosperity.”

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also congratulated new UK Foreign Secretary David Lammy. “Congratulations to @DavidLammy on being appointed Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom. Look forward to continuing our engagement and strengthening the India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” he wrote on X.

New Delhi, according to the sources, is looking forward to early engagements with the Labour Party’s government in London so that the negotiations for the India-UK Free Trade Agreement could continue and result in an early breakthrough.

The Labour Party had promised in its poll manifesto that its government would seek “a new strategic partnership” between London and New Delhi, including a Free Trade Agreement. It had also promised to deepen cooperation between the two nations in areas like security, education, and technology as well as in dealing with climate change.

New Delhi’s relations with the Labour Party of the UK had been strained in the past. After the Modi Government had in August 2019 stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status and reorganised the state into two Union Territories, the Labour Party, then led by Jeremy Corbyn, had passed an emergency resolution. It had supported the right of self-determination of the Kashmiris and had sought entry of international observers into J&K. In March 2021, Corbyn and several other MPs of the Labour Party, the Scottish National Party, and the Liberal Democratic Party expressed concern over the way the Modi Government responded to the protests by the farmers against the three new agricultural laws.

After succeeding Corbyn as the leader of the Labour Party, Starmer, however, made changes in the party’s approach to India.

“What my Labour government will seek with India is a relationship based on our shared values of democracy and aspiration. That will seek a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), we share that ambition, but also a new strategic partnership for global security, climate security, economic security,” Starmer had said addressing the India Global Forum in June 2023.

The negotiations for the India-UK FTA started in January 2022. Modi and his then counterpart Boris Johnson set Diwali in October 2022 as the deadline to conclude the negotiation. The negotiators, however, not only missed the deadline but could not even clinch the deal by ‘Diwali’ in November 2023. The two sides concluded negotiations on 19 of the 26 proposed chapters of the trade agreement by the time the 14th round of negotiations ended in March, just before the parliamentary elections commenced in India, followed by that in the UK.

New Delhi, according to the sources, is expecting that the Labour Party’s government in London will seek some minor adjustments but not re-negotiation on the FTA chapters, which the two sides already agreed on. The negotiations on the remaining chapters may restart within a few months.

Starmer moved into 10 Downing Street in London on Friday. Rishi Sunak, the first Hindu prime minister of the UK, earlier in the day left the official residence of the head of the UK government along with his wife Akshata Murthy, the daughter of Sudha Murthy and N R Narayana Murthy, the founder of Indian Information Technology giant Infosys.

“Thank you @RishiSunak for your admirable leadership of the UK, and your active contribution to deepen the ties between India and the UK during your term in office.

"Best wishes to you and your family for the future,” Modi wrote on X.

Published 05 July 2024, 11:32 IST

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