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UK PM Starmer speaks to Indian PM Modi on trade, security, climate, living bridge

Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street
Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street

Newly elected UK Prime Minister Keir Starmer connected with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on his first full day in office over the weekend after his Labour government won a landslide victory in the General Election last week.

According to Downing Street, the Labour PM confirmed his government’s commitment towards signing a free trade agreement (FTA) with India that works for the benefit of both countries. The call to Modi was followed by calls to other Prime Ministers in the region, including Japan and Australia.

In a readout of the call, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “The leaders exchanged congratulations on their respective election wins, and reflected on the strength of the relationship between the UK and India.

“The Prime Minister said he looked forward to further deepening the strong and respectful relationship between both countries, and welcomed Prime Minister Modi’s leadership on key global challenges, such as climate change and economic growth.

“Discussing the importance of the living bridge 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.

“Discussing the Free Trade Agreement, the Prime Minister said he stood ready to conclude a deal that worked for both sides.

“The leaders hoped to meet at the earliest opportunity.”

India and the UK have been negotiating an FTA for over two years with a Conservative Party led government. However, the talks hit a roadblock in the fourteenth round due to general elections, first in India and then in the UK.

It was in January 2022, when Boris Johnson was the British prime minister, that the talks kick-started with a Diwali deadline for signing off on it later that year. Rishi Sunak, Britain's first prime minister of Indian heritage whose party lost the polls last week, took over the mantle of trying to get it signed off, but it now falls to the new Labour government to take over the negotiations.

The party’s election manifesto committed to clinching the deal, stating: “We will seek a new strategic partnership with India, including a free trade agreement, as well as deepening cooperation in areas like security, education, technology and climate change.”

The new Foreign Secretary, David Lammy, told the India Global Forum (IGF) in London recently that his message to his counterparts in the Indian Cabinet was that the Labour government is “ready to go” on the FTA and that he planned to visit India within weeks of taking over at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

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Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street
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