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PM Modi speaks to UK counterpart Keir Starmer, invites him for early visit to India, discusses trade deal

Appreciating the positive contributions of the Indian community in the social, economic and political development of the UK, both the leaders agreed to continue to promote the close people-to-people ties.
Last Updated : 06 July 2024, 10:32 IST

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday spoke to his new United Kingdom counterpart Keir Starmer over the phone and invited him for an early visit to India, even as the two leaders agreed to clinch the much-awaited trade deal as soon as possible.

Modi congratulated Starmer, who took over as the new prime minister of the UK after leading his Labour Party to a landslide victory in the general elections to the House of Commons. “We remain committed to deepening Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and robust India-UK economic ties for the progress and prosperity of our peoples and global good,” the prime minister wrote on X after the phone call with his counterpart in London.

The Ministry of External Affairs in New Delhi stated in a press release that both leaders had “recalled the historic relations between the two countries and reaffirmed their commitment to further deepen and advance the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between India and the UK”. The two leaders agreed to work towards the early conclusion of a mutually beneficial India-UK Free Trade Agreement.

Modi had on Friday taken to X to congratulate Starmer for the Labour Party’s remarkable victory in the parliamentary elections in the UK.

Starmer too on Saturday congratulated Modi for winning the recent Lok Sabha elections, which gave him a third term in the office of the prime minister.

The UK prime minister told his counterpart in New Delhi that he stood ready to conclude a deal that worked for both sides, according to the press release issued by 10 Downing Street in London.

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.

The bilateral trade between India and the UK increased to $21.34 billion in 2023-24 from $20.36 billion in 2022-23.

An FTA is expected to enhance trade volumes, especially in services, facilitating the movement of skilled professionals.

Starmer told Modi that he looked forward to further deepening the strong and respectful relationship between both countries and welcomed the leadership of his counterpart in New Delhi on key global challenges, such as climate change and economic growth.

Discussing the importance of the living bridge – the Indian-British diaspora - between the UK and India, and the 2030 roadmap, the leaders agreed there was a wide range of areas across defence and security, critical and emerging technology, and climate change, for the two countries to deepen cooperation on, according to 10 Downing Street.

“The prime minister extended an invitation to Prime Minister Starmer for an early visit to India. Both leaders agreed to remain in touch,” the MEA stated in New Delhi. 

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Published 06 July 2024, 10:32 IST

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