External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly reviewed the status of the “2030 Roadmap’ for boosting cooperation between the two countries, including the ongoing negotiations for a Indo-UK FTA, and discussed the Russia-Ukraine conflict, in a bilateral meeting on Saturday.
“Delighted to welcome UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly on his first India visit; shortly after our meeting in New York last month. Noted the progress in our Roadmap 2030. Also discussed the Ukraine conflict and the Indo-Pacific,” Jaishankar tweeted after the meeting.
Cleverly, who has been recently appointed Foreign Secretary by UK’s new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, is on his first visit to India after assuming office. “India is an incredibly important international partner. I’m very pleased that it’s my first visit as the newly appointed Foreign Secretary,” Cleverly tweeted on Friday.
There were speculations on the fate of the India-UK FTA after Sunak took over last week from former PM Liz Truss, who resigned after just a 45-day stint at the top post. But the new PM and his top officials have indicated that all initiatives to boost ties between India and the UK, including the FTA talks, would continue unchanged. “The Prime Minister hoped the UK and India could continue to make good progress in negotiations to finalise a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement,” as per a statement issued by British High Commission following Sunak’s telephonic conversation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 27.
The 2030 Roadmap, the landmark commitment to boost cooperation between the UK and India over the next decade under a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’, targets doubling of bilateral trade to $100 billion by 2030 by initiating various facilitating provisions including a full-fledged FTA.
Although former British PM Boris Johnson and Modi had initially talked about a Diwali deadline for conclusion of the talks, sensitive areas such as market access for spirits and automobiles, rules on intellectual property and government procurement and liberalisation of work visas, are amongst items that still need to be resolved.
Jaishankar and Cleverly also discussed the Russia-Ukraine situation and ways in which the situation can be resolved.
Severing of ties
The UK is in favour of severing economic ties with Russia to dent its financial capacity. “From January 1, 2023, the UK is ending all imports of Russian liquefied natural gas and supporting countries around the world in reducing their own dependency,” Cleverly recently tweeted.
India, however, wants to continue its economic ties with Russia while it has several times denounced the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Cleverly also spoke at the United Nations Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee meet in New Delhi on Saturday and called on countries to work together to fight online terrorism including global terror recruitment campaigns and live streaming of attacks.
Jaishankar, in his address, pointed out that the threat of terrorism was only growing and expanding, particularly in Asia and Africa.