British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday told lawmakers that he had “warm and productive” discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi towards a free trade agreement (FTA) with India as he updated the UK Parliament on his recent visit to New Delhi for the India-led G20 Summit.
Addressing the House of Commons after his first visit to India as British Prime Minister, the 43-year-old leader began by flagging his and his wife Akshata Murty’s Indian connections and financial interests in India.
In his detailed parliamentary statement, Mr Sunak went on to highlight his three key aims of the India visit, which included increasing diplomatic pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin over the conflict in Ukraine, climate action and strengthening ties with India.
“I held warm and productive discussions with Prime Minister Modi on strengthening our relationship in defence, technology and a free trade deal between our nations,” Mr Sunak said.
India and the UK have concluded 12 negotiating rounds towards an FTA, which both sides believe will significantly enhance the GBP 36 billion bilateral trade partnership. While in India, Mr Sunak told reporters that things aren’t quite agreed on the pact and that he “won’t rush things”.
“For the record, let me declare that as is a matter of public record, I and my family are of Indian origin. My wife and her family are Indian citizens with financial interests in India,” Mr Sunak told the Commons with reference to Murty’s shares in Infosys – the software major co-founded by her father Narayana Murthy.
Mr Sunak pointed out that even as most G20 leaders came together in Delhi in a spirit of cooperation, one leader was missing from the summit.
“Putin has lacked the courage to face his G20 peers day after day. His actions cause horrendous suffering in Ukraine, violating the UN Charter, threatening European security and disrupting global energy supplies… Leaders united in calling out the human suffering caused by Putin’s war,” he said.
On his other key priority at the summit, he stressed that the UK is seen as a global leader on climate issues.
“At the G20, I made a record commitment of over 1.6 billion pounds for the Green Climate Fund, the single biggest international climate pledge the UK has ever made,” he said.
Against the backdrop of UK media revelations over the weekend of the arrest of a parliamentary researcher on suspicion of spying for China, Sunak told MPs that he met Premier Li Qiang on the margins of the summit in New Delhi to condemn such actions.
“I was emphatic with Premier Li that actions which seek to undermine British democracy are completely unacceptable and will never be tolerated. I also emphasised the UK’s unyielding commitment to human rights, and I was clear on the importance of maintaining stability and international law as the basis for stable relations,” he said.
During questions raised by members of Parliament, Sunak was asked about the case of British Sikh activist Jagtar Johal who is lodged in an Indian jail on serious charges. The British prime minister confirmed that he had raised the matter during his talks with the Indian counterpart and that the UK “remains committed to seeing a resolution” to the case.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by String Reveals staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)