Indian and British foreign ministers discuss bilateral relations and Ukraine | Latest India News

Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and his British counterpart James Cleverly discussed bilateral relations and the fallout from the Ukrainian conflict on Tuesday shortly after Rishi Sunak took over as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

There was no official readout of the conversation from either side, and Jaishankar said in a tweet that he received a call from Cleverly and they discussed counter-terrorism, bilateral relations and of the Ukrainian conflict.

Cleverly said in a tweet that the two ministers “discussed the Russian-Ukrainian crisis and that the UK will challenge Russia’s rhetoric and allegations” at an upcoming meeting of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC ).

The remarks were an apparent reference to the UN Security Council expected to take up Russia’s claims about Ukraine’s plans to use a so-called “dirty bomb”. Officials from the US, UK and other Western countries have already dismissed the allegations as a “Russian false flag operation”.

Cleverly was among British leaders who backed stronger relations with India after remarks by former Home Secretary Suella Braverman about a proposed bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) triggering more immigration from India has not been welcomed in New Delhi.

“We want to have an even stronger trade relationship, and it is already strong, but even stronger with India,” Cleverly said earlier this month.

Meanwhile, British High Commissioner Alex Ellis said on Tuesday that Sunak had made it clear the economy would be the top priority during his tenure as prime minister. “India is a big investor in the UK, the UK is a big investor in India. We want to double trade by 2030,” he told news agency ANI.

“A free trade agreement is a great way to do that. It’s a long way to get to the FTA, we went through the foothills, up the valley, arrived at the base camp and now we have to do this short and sharp climb. I think both countries are determined to reach the top,” Ellis said.

The British envoy acknowledged that “it takes two to tango” and said: “The negotiations [had been] has lasted less than a year. It is a short time for free trade agreements, but there is a price inside, which is the strengthening of employment and growth in both countries. I think that is what the two prime ministers would like to achieve.

Former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had set his sights on finalizing the trade deal by Diwali, which was celebrated on October 24. People familiar with the matter said the FTA would likely be concluded next year due to differences in key areas such as the mobility of professionals and students and automobiles.

Ellis also called the election of Britain’s first Hindu prime minister a “historic moment”.

“It’s a great day for the UK. We have a new PM. He’s young. His grandparents were from India, his parents from East Africa. He is a Hindu. It’s a sign of a different UK to the country I grew up in,” he said.

“Relations between the UK and India have deepened and grown very rapidly since we left the European Union. We will see what happens while we wait for this government to continue on the same path,” he added.


    Rezaul H Laskar is Foreign Affairs Editor at the Hindustan Times. His interests include cinema and music.
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