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Amid tough FTA negotiations, India, UK strengthen ties in health, other sectors

External Affairs Minister (EAM), Dr S. Jaishankar paid an official visit to the United Kingdom from 11-15 November 2023. EAM called on Prime Minister H.E. Rishi Sunak, and held talks with his new counterpart, Foreign Secretary H.E. David Cameron. He also met Secretary of State for Home, H.E. James Cleverly; Secretary of State for Defence H.E. Grant Shapps; and National Security Adviser, H.E. Tim Barrow.

In his meeting with the Prime Minister, EAM extended Diwali greetings and conveyed best wishes on behalf of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. PM Sunak and EAM expressed satisfaction at positive momentum in enhancing the India-UK relationship as an important factor in addressing contemporary challenges. They also reviewed implementation of Roadmap 2030 and discussed ongoing negotiations for a India-UK Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

EAM met Foreign Secretary Cameron on his first day in office and congratulated him on his appointment. They discussed avenues to realize the full potential of India-UK partnership in avenues ranging from cooperation in political, economic and trade, defence and security, science and technology, innovation, health, education, people-to-people connections and mobility. They also exchanged views on important global developments including the Indo-Pacific, the situation in West Asia, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

​With Home Secretary Cleverly, EAM discussed the importance of mobility in skills and talent in the development of bilateral cooperation, and exchanged views on addressing extremism, trans-border crimes including economic offences and trafficking. In EAM’s meeting with Defence Secretary Shapps, they focused on enhancing defence and security cooperation, recognizing that ‘Make in India’ offers a wealth of opportunities to UK companies for potential industrial partnerships. EAM and NSA Sir Tim Barrow discussed recent developments including in West Asia, Indo-Pacific and Russia-Ukraine. They underscored the need for close collaboration on combating violent extremism and radicalism and agreed to deepen and expand dialogue on these and other shared concerns.

EAM also met the former UK Prime Minister H.E. Tony Blair, Leader of the Opposition H.E. Keir Starmer, Shadow Foreign Secretary H.E. David Lammy, along with Shadow Minister of State for Asia & the Pacific, H.E. Catherine West.

EAM addressed the Indian diaspora at a Diwali Reception at Westminster Palace, in which Minister of State H.E Lord Tariq Ahmad also offered greetings on behalf of His Majesty’s Government. EAM also visited the BAPS Swaminarayan Temple at Neasden. He also unveiled two (2) 8th Century Yogini sculptures from a temple in the village of Lokhari in Uttar Pradesh, which have been recovered in the UK and will shortly be sent back to India.

During the visit, EAM also participated in a conversation on ‘How a Billion People See the World’at a Policy Event held in partnership with Wilton Park and the Royal Overseas League. The event, moderated by the eminent political commentator Lionel Barber, was attended by parliamentarians, diplomats, journalists, academicians and business leaders.

​The visit further consolidated the long-standing historical ties between the two countries and provided a new impetus to bilateral cooperation in diverse areas against the backdrop of progress on the India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, and Roadmap 2030.
MB Bureau

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