Rishi Sunak's team are in New Delhi this week to add momentum behind the ongoing round of negotiations for an India-UK free trade agreement (FTA), according to a UK media report on Saturday.
'The Guardian' newspaper reports that while there is no official comment from either side on such a visit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government is keen to finalise the FTA by the end of February before Modi sets off on an expected general election campaign trail.
Both countries are heading into an election year in 2024 and signing off on a trade agreement with India will bolster Sunak's electoral pitch to voters showing signs of anti-incumbency towards his governing Conservatives.
«The deal is still very much on and we think it is possible before both countries have their elections. Both sides are keen to get this done,» an official close to the talks told the newspaper.
The India-UK FTA talks began in January last year with Diwali 2022 set as the initial deadline by then prime minister Boris Johnson.
There have been 13 rounds of negotiations since then, with the Sunak-led Tory government wary of setting any firm new timelines to clinch a deal that is expected to significantly enhance the GBP 36-billion bilateral trading partnership.
«The UK and India continue to work towards an ambitious trade deal that works for both countries. We have always been clear we will only sign a deal that is fair, balanced, and ultimately in the best interests of the British people and the economy,» said a spokesperson for the Department for Business and Trade (DBT), reiterating the official UK government line.
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Most recently, External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar confirmed that the FTA was among the many topics on the agenda during