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Modi and Starmer agree to expedite India-U.K. FTA

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NEW DELHI : Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi congratulated British Prime Minister Keir Starmer on assuming charge and a remarkable victory of his Labour Party in the election, PM Modi on July 6 spoke to newly elected British PM as the two leaders agreed to work towards an early conclusion of a mutually beneficial India-U.K. Free Trade Agreement, a statement said.

The ministry of external affairs, in a statement, said that during the conversation, both leaders 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 an early conclusion of a mutually beneficial India-UK free trade agreement. Appreciating the positive contributions of the Indian community to the social, economic and political development of the UK, the two sides agreed to continue to promote close people-to-people ties… Both leaders agreed to remain in touch,” the foreign ministry statement added.

Modi also extended an invitation to Starmer for an early visit to India as the two leaders agreed to remain in touch, the statement said.

After the conversation, Modi, in a post on X, wrote, “Pleased to speak with @Keir_Starmer. Congratulated him on being elected as the Prime Minister of the UK. We remain committed to deepening comprehensive strategic partnership and robust India-UK economic ties for the progress and prosperity of our people and the global good.”

The Labour Party of the UK registered one of the biggest wins by defeating the Conservative Party and returning to power after 14 years. Given their turbulent relations and differing views in the past, India and the UK, under the Labour Party, will need to give a fresh start to their bilateral relationship. Especially given that the Labour Party had in 2019, under the leadership of Jeremy Bernard Corbyn, passed a motion seeking the deployment of international monitors in Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian government had seen this as interference in its internal matter and issued a strong statement against the motion. The motion had angered the Indian diaspora too, which since then has aligned largely with the Conservatives.

Five years later, Starmer tried to placate the Indian diaspora and undo the damage done under Corbyn, who was later expelled from the Labour Party. During his poll campaigns for the just-concluded general election, Starmer had extensively reached out to the Indian diaspora and even visited a Hindu temple in London. His election manifesto specifically mentioned his party’s commitment to pursue a new strategic partnership with India.

“Labour will build and strengthen modern partnerships with allies and regional powers. 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 party’s manifesto said.

Much has changed between 2019 and 2024. The Labour Party this time has a record 26 Indian-origin MPs. Yet, the party’s views on immigration, Jammu and Kashmir and the free trade agreement remain to be seen.

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