Rishi Sunak said on Friday (8) that his trip to New Delhi for the G20 Leaders’ Summit is “obviously special”. He jokingly mentioned the nickname “son-in-law of India,” as the first British prime minister of Indian heritage and being married to Akshata Murty, an Indian.
Speaking to reporters in a huddle on his flight to New Delhi, the 43-year-old British Indian leader said he was excited to be back in India, “a country that is very near and dear to me”.
He is joined on the visit by his wife, the daughter of Infosys co-founder Narayana Murthy, and is scheduled for bilateral talks with prime minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the summit.
“I’m heading to the G20 Summit with a clear focus. Stabilising the global economy. Building international relationships. Supporting the most vulnerable,” tweeted Sunak as he embarked on the three-day tour.
“It’s obviously special. I saw somewhere that I was referred to as India’s son-in-law, which I hope was meant affectionately,” he told reporters travelling with him.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict has been flagged as a key topic on the agenda for the UK during the summit discussions, with Downing Street saying India’s role and influence is “vital”.
“Once again, Vladimir Putin is failing to show his face at the G20. He is the architect of his own diplomatic exile, isolating himself in his presidential palace and blocking out criticism and reality. The rest of the G20, meanwhile, are demonstrating that we will turn up and work together to pick up the pieces of Putin’s destruction,” Sunak told reporters.
His Downing Street spokesperson said the UK will use “every opportunity” to show its support for Ukraine and further foster global support as well.
“India has a vital role to play as the world’s largest democracy in calling out Russia’s assault on human rights and indeed democracy itself. We will use meetings with Modi or elsewhere to encourage them to use that influence to bring an end to Putin’s brutal invasion,” Sunak’s spokesperson said.
The India-UK free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations are likely to also feature highly during the Modi-Sunak bilateral discussions, having just completed 12 rounds of negotiations but with no set timeframe for its conclusion.
Separately, Downing Street has indicated that there will be no changes to the UK immigration policy as part of the deal, though short-term business visas are up for discussion as part of the trade talks.
Official UK government statistics peg the India-UK bilateral trade relationship as worth around GBP 36 billion in 2022, expected to be significantly enhanced with what both sides have branded as a deep and forward-looking FTA.
Modi and Sunak last met on the sidelines of the G7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan, in May.
A month later, during UK-India Week in London, Sunak had said he “can’t wait” to meet his Indian counterpart again.
“Prime minister Modiji and I agree there’s huge potential here. We’re making great progress together on the 2030 Roadmap and we want to strike a truly ambitious trade deal that benefits both our nations, bringing tremendous opportunities to businesses and consumers, both in India and here at home,” he said at the time.