External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Tuesday discussed relations between India-U.K. with his British counterpart James Cleverly. The call took place just before Mr. Cleverly was confirmed to continue in the post of Foreign Secretary by the newly appointed British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
The two Ministers discussed several issues but the announcement of the phone call did not include the state of negotiation of the India-U.K. Free Trade Agreement (FTA) that missed the Deepavali deadline that was given earlier this year by Prime Minister Boris Johnson during his visit to India.
“Received a call from UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly. Discussed counter-terrorism, bilateral relations and the Ukraine conflict,” Dr. Jaishankar said in a social media announcement.
Shortly thereafter, Mr. Cleverly was reappointed Foreign Secretary by Prime Minister Sunak. The phone call showed high-level dialogue between the two sides has been on track despite the political developments in London including the resignation of Liz Truss and appointment of Mr. Sunak as her successor.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Prime Minister Sunak on Monday, extended Deepavali greetings, and said that he looks “forward to working closely together on global issues, and implementing Roadmap 2030.”
The Roadmap 2030 was launched on May 4, 2021, during the India-U.K. virtual summit led by Prime Minister Modi and the then British Prime Minister Mr. Johnson. One of the main focus areas of Roadmap 2030 was the Free Trade Agreement between the two countries which received further boost during Mr. Johnson’s India visit in April this year. He had announced that the deal would be ready by Deepavali.
However, both sides had reconciled to the possibility of missing that deadline last week when British media reported that the deal was “put on hold”. The Official Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs Arindam Bagchi however, responded saying that the negotiation should be left to the concerned officials and the deal was on track.
India and the U.K. have held several rounds of dialogue on the trade pact so far and it is understood that the talks will continue after Prime Minister Sunak’s team gets down to business.