Published: 11:53, March 13, 2024 | Updated: 13:05, March 13, 2024
India's Modi and UK's Sunak reaffirm ties to trade deal
By Reuters

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hand with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak upon his arrival at Bharat Mandapam convention center for the G20 Summit, in New Delhi, India, Sept 9, 2023. (PHOTO / AP)

NEW DELHI / LONDON - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and British counterpart Rishi Sunak reaffirmed their commitment to securing a new trade deal in a call on Tuesday, as the prospect of an agreement ahead of elections in India fades.

ALSO READ: India says Europe trade group committed to $100b 15-year deal

Britain and India have held stop-start talks over a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) for two years. Both countries are set to hold national elections in 2024. Modi will bid for a rare third term, with the election dates expected to be announced soon.

The conversation between the two leaders comes two days after India signed a free trade pact with a group of European nations - Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein - committing to reduce tariffs, while New Delhi receives $100 billion in investments over the next 15 years

"We reaffirmed our commitment to further strengthen the bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership and work for early conclusion of a mutually beneficial free trade agreement," Modi said in a post on X on Tuesday after the call with Sunak.

However, while some progress has been made, an early conclusion of talks seems less likely after British negotiators returned from India last week without agreement on a range of key issues. Trade minister Kemi Badenoch has said talks were "challenging" and that the Indian election wasn't a deadline.

READ MORE: India gets first underwater metro line

British ministers have said that they are prepared to take their time to strike the right deal, rather than accept a more limited agreement that might be quicker to negotiate - a point Sunak stressed on Tuesday in his call with Modi.

"The Prime Minister (Sunak) reiterated the importance of reaching an ambitious outcome on goods and services," Sunak's spokesperson said in a readout of the call.

READ MORE: India's farmer protest fuels opposition hopes of denting Modi's appeal

"They agreed to remain in close contact and looked forward to further progress on trade talks."

The conversation between the two leaders comes two days after India signed a free trade pact with a group of European nations - Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein - committing to reduce tariffs, while New Delhi receives $100 billion in investments over the next 15 years.