India, UK keen on sealing FTA by end of 2022
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Boris Johnson on Friday agreed to expand the India-UK defence partnership and unveiled plans for finalising a free trade agreement (FTA) by the end of this year.
Johnson held wide-ranging talks with Modi on the second day of his visit to India against the backdrop of a concerted push by the United Kingdom to conclude a trade deal with India that is expected to boost two-way trade by billions of dollars.
The two prime ministers reviewed progress in the implementation of ‘Roadmap 2030’, which sets ambitious targets for collaboration in five specific areas, including defence and security cooperation, and trade and investment, and also framed some goals for the future.
Making a media statement after the talks with Johnson, Modi said good progress has been made in negotiations for an FTA.
“Teams of both countries are working on the free trade agreement. Negotiations are progressing well. And we have decided to do our best to conclude the FTA by the end of this year,” Modi said, speaking in Hindi.
Johnson said both leaders were telling their negotiators to get the FTA done by Diwali in October.
He said the two sides agreed on a new and expanded defence and security partnership. The UK will set up an India-specific open general export licencing regime to reduce the delivery time for defence procurements, he added.
Modi said both sides emphasised the need to maintaining a free, open, inclusive and rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific. India also welcomed the UK’s decision to join the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative, he said.
“We reiterated our support for a peaceful, stable and secure Afghanistan and for an inclusive and representative government. It is necessary that the Afghan soil should not be used to spread terrorism in other countries,” Modi said.
Referring to the Ukraine crisis, Modi stressed the need for dialogue and diplomacy for an “immediate ceasefire and resolution of the problem”. He said, “We also reiterated the importance of respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries.”
Johnson described UK-India ties as “one of defining friendships of our times”.
The India-UK relationship was elevated to a comprehensive strategic partnership during the virtual summit between Modi and Johnson in 2021. The two sides also adopted the 10-year road map to expand ties in trade and investment, defence and security, climate change, healthcare and people-to-people ties.