India's Narendra Modi and UK PM Rishi Sunak to conclude free trade agreement quickly

India and UK are aiming to reduce import and export barriers and could boost bilateral trade

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Getty Images, Reuters
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his UK counterpart Rishi Sunak aim to swiftly conclude a “comprehensive and balanced” free trade agreement between the two countries.

India and the UK are negotiating a free-trade agreement under the Roadmap 2030 that outlines plans for the bilateral relationship over the next 10 years.

Roadmap 2030 is a shared British-Indian vision to re-energise trade, investment and technological collaboration and improve citizens' lives.

Both nations are hoping the agreement will help to reduce import and export barriers and boost bilateral trade to more than $100 billion by 2030.

Negotiations over the proposed deal were expected to conclude this month, but the deadline was missed owing to lack of consensus and the transition in the UK political leadership.

Mr Modi said he spoke to Mr Sunak late on Thursday and the two leaders discussed the early conclusion of the deal.

“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,” Mr Modi said in a tweet after the call.

India is the second largest FDI investor in the UK.

Since the controversy of Brexit, the UK’s tortuous exit from the EU trading bloc, London has been expanding its markets and signed free trade agreements, particularly with countries in the Asia-Pacific region, which are some of the fastest-growing economies.

But Suella Braverman, reappointed by Mr Sunak as home secretary and also of Indian origin, had concerns about any trade deal with India that involved more “migration and visa flexibility”.

The telephone conversation between the leaders came before James Cleverly, Britain’s foreign secretary, travels to India on Friday for a two-day meeting on counter-terrorism efforts in capital Delhi and Mumbai, in a sign that the new Tory leader wants to prioritise his government’s relationship with India.

Mr Cleverly is also expected to meet Indian foreign minister Subramanyam Jaishankar and negotiate at securing the free trade deal.

Many Indians are optimistic about Mr Sunak's ascent to the top post and hopeful for stronger India-UK relations, given his Indian ancestry.

Mr Sunak's grandfathers were born in undivided Punjab province in British India and the families had moved to Africa before making a final move to the UK in the 1960s.

He is married to Akshata Murthy, the daughter of Indian billionaire Narayana Murthy and his wife Sudha.

Updated: October 28, 2022, 10:32 AM