Modi dials Starmer, invites him to India

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Modi congratulated Starmer on assuming charge and on the remarkable victory of his Labour Party in the election. He also invited Starmer to India….reports Asian Lite News

A day after Keir Starmer led the Labour landslide to end 14 years of Conservative rule in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke to the new British Prime Minister Saturday and the two leaders agreed to work towards an early conclusion of a mutually beneficial India-UK free trade agreement.

Modi congratulated Starmer on assuming charge and on the remarkable victory of his Labour Party in the election. He also invited Starmer to India.

According to 10, Downing Street, the British Prime Minister, while discussing the FTA, said he stood ready to conclude a deal “that worked for both sides”.

Starmer also 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, the British government’s statement said.

Downing Street said 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 – this reflects the Starmer government’s priorities.

Their conversation took place two days before Modi travels to Russia and Austria on bilateral visits, his first bilateral visit in the third term. His visit to Russia on July 8-9 will be his first since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war in February 2022, and coincides with the 75th anniversary summit of NATO leaders in Washington DC on July 9-11 — the summit, which will be attended by leaders of 32 NATO members including US President Joe Biden, may be Starmer’s first overseas visit as Prime Minister.

A statement by Prime Minister Modi’s office in New Delhi said the two leaders recalled the historic relations between India and the UK and reaffirmed their commitment to further deepen and advance the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between their countries.

Appreciating the positive contributions of the Indian community in the social, economic and political development of the UK, they agreed to continue to promote the close people-to-people ties.

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.

In a post on X, Modi said, “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 peoples and global good.”

Congratulating Jonathan Reynolds on his appointment as UK Secretary of State for Business and Trade, Union Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal said, “It was wonderful meeting you in person in Delhi earlier this year. Deeply impressed by your positivity and commitment to strengthening our bilateral relations.”

“I look forward to meeting you again and jointly raising India-UK trade and economic ties to the next level. Wishing you a very successful tenure,” Goyal said in a post on X.

New Delhi and London have been negotiating the proposed FTA for over two years now, with a final deal expected to result in a mutual tariff relaxation on a range of goods such as cars, clothes, alcoholic beverages and medical instruments. While the Tories and Labour disagree on how to restrict immigration into the UK, there is a bipartisan consensus on the fact that it must be curbed.

With the UK being a powerhouse in the financial services and technology segments, India is seeking temporary visas for its service sector workforce. Given the political climate though, Labour is likely to negotiate hard on the visa issue.

On Friday, within hours of Labour’s landslide victory, Modi had congratulated Starmer on the “remarkable victory” and said he looked forward to “positive and constructive collaboration” to further strengthen bilateral ties.

In November last year, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met Starmer, who was then Leader of the Opposition, and they had reaffirmed the bipartisan commitment towards strengthening India-UK relations. He had also met Lammy, with the two leaders holding discussions on security and development issues as well as bilateral cooperation.

This was followed by visits by Lammy and Reynolds who came to New Delhi in early February this year and met Jaishankar and Goyal. Incidentally, this was when both sides were in the middle of FTA negotiations.

India and UK share unique friendship, affirms Lammy

Citing deep connections between people, business, and culture, Britain’s new Foreign Secretary David Lammy on Saturday hailed the “unique friendship” between India and the United Kingdom. 

The 51-year-old Labour Party politician spoke with External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar and reaffirmed the commitment of the new government led by Keir Starmer to enhance the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the two countries.

“The UK and India share a unique friendship with deep connections between our people, business, and culture. Great to speak to my friend Dr S Jaishankar about unlocking the potential of our relationship and developing a stronger and deeper comprehensive strategic partnership,” Lammy said on Saturday evening.

EAM Jaishankar stated that he was “delighted” to speak to the UK Foreign Secretary and is looking forward to an early in-person meeting.

Earlier in the day, while outlining his priorities following his appointment, the new British Foreign Secretary said that the new Labour government will begin with a “reset” with Europe on climate and with the global South.

Lammy highlighted that the world is currently facing “huge challenges” with more countries engaged in conflict than at any time since World War II.

“This government will reconnect Britain for our security and prosperity at home. What happens here in the Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office is essential.

“Diplomacy matters. We will begin with a reset with Europe, on climate, and with the global South. And a gear-shift when it comes to delivering on European security, global security, and British growth,” Lammy said in a statement released by the UK Foreign Ministry on Saturday.

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