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PM Modi and Rishi Sunak hold their first talks, discuss free trade agreement

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi holds first talks with British counterpart Rishi Sunak

In their first discussion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the UK’s new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak discussed taking relations to the next level. They spoke about giving a push to the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that has been hanging for a while.

This was their first conversation after Sunak, the first Indian-origin  Prime Minister, took over as  UK’s Premier  this Tuesday.

In his tweet, Modi congratulated Sunak and said: “We will work together to further strengthen our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. We also agreed on the importance of early conclusion of a comprehensive and balanced FTA”.

India and the UK have been holding discussions on strengthening ties in various fields and pushing economic engagement since last year.

The two nations had committed to the India-UK Roadmap 2030 – a vision document to “re-energised trade, investment and technological collaboration that improves the lives and livelihoods of our citizens; enhanced defence and security cooperation that brings a more secure Indian Ocean Region and Indo-Pacific and India-UK leadership in climate, clean energy and health that acts as a global force for good”.

Sunak also tweeted about his conversation with Modi, highlighting the commonalities the two nations share. He said: “Thank you Prime Minister Narendra Modi for your kind words as I get started in my new role. The UK and India share so much. I’m excited about what our two great democracies can achieve as we deepen our security, defence and economic partnership in the months and years ahead”.

In the last one month, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and his British counterpart James Cleverly have interacted a number of times, even holding a meeting in New York in late September. Britain’s Foreign Office said that Cleverly will be visiting India on Friday to hold consultations on strengthening relations.

The India-UK FTA ran into rough weather after Home Secretary Suella Braverman, under former prime minister Liz Truss’ leadership, said that Indians overstay their visas and the UK cannot provide for a more liberal visa policy for Indians. Even as the UK seeks to open up the Indian market after the European Union (EU) closed due to Brexit, New Delhi also wants better access for its professionals who seek to work in Britain.

Also Read: British Indians, Nepalese ecstatic as Rishi Sunak rises to the top in the UK