“At the G20, we really saw a glimpse of what the future of that relationship can be, with closer cooperation on absolutely everything from trade to defence, innovation, security, research, and I hope… a free trade deal, and we can get it done,” said UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
During his first Conservative Party conference as leader, the UK PM was the special guest at a reception organised by the Conservative Friends of India (CFIN) diaspora group in Manchester this week.
The Prime Minister noted: “I've just come back from my first trip to India as Prime Minister and that was very successful. Everybody here already knows just how strong the relationship between our two countries is.
“We're working together as partners to build a better future for all our citizens.”
The official UK Department for Business and Trade (DBT) figures peg the UK-India bilateral trading relationship at an estimated £36 billion in 2022, a figure expected to get a substantial boost with the proposed FTA being negotiated since last year.
Sunak’s visit to New Delhi for the G20 Leaders’ Summit last month concluded with a commitment to the FTA, though Sunak stressed that he "won't rush things". Then amid a diplomatic standoff between India and Canada over the contentious issue of pro-Khalistan extremism, Sunak’s spokesperson at 10 Downing Street had reiterated that trade talks with New Delhi remain on track.
UK Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch recently told the Parliament’s Business and Trade Committee that both countries are very close but has repeatedly refused to set any new deadlines.
Referencing former UK prime minister Boris Johnson setting a Diwali 2022 deadline for an agreement, Badenoch reiterated the Sunak-led government’s approach of not setting any end dates.
“We had the same thing last year, where they said we're going to have a deal by Diwali. Once you set a date, you create problems on your own side. We have always been very, very specific that it’s about the deal, not the day. And, we will get there when we have a deal that is mutually beneficial for India and for the UK. We've done quite a lot, so it is close,” she said.
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