Rishi Sunak says he is confident a trade deal will be struck between the UK and India after meeting with Narendra Modi at the G20 summit.
The meeting came as the Indian prime minister said a consensus had been reached on a G20 leaders’ declaration and it has now been adopted.
The wording around the war in Ukraine had proved contentious in the run-up to the weekend, threatening to leave the summit without a leaders’ declaration for the first time in its 20-year history.
Leaders have reached a compromise on the language used to describe the war, although details are yet to be released.
Speaking after the meeting, Mr Sunak said the communique used “very strong language” about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the war’s impact on food prices and the need for a revival of the Black Sea grain deal.
Mr Sunak is visiting Delhi for the first time as prime minister to attend the G20 summit.
“It is a historic moment for India but also for the world in the way that you’ve done it,” he told Mr Modi.
The leaders embraced as they met, with Mr Sunak commenting: “Everyone is excited, everyone is proud, it looks great.”
The pair discussed negotiations surrounding a potential UK-India free trade deal during the bilateral meeting.
While Mr Sunak had been positive about the progress of negotiations in advance of the meeting, he warned a deal was “not a given”.
Speaking after the meeting, he said there was “hard work” still to be done on the trade deal, but he was “confident there is a deal there to be done”.
“Trade deals of this size and ambition are never easy”, he said, adding he would never put an “arbitrary deadline” on the agreement.
A second visit to India is being discussed for later this year, with hopes a deal may be reached then.
Mr Sunak said while a trade agreement is an important way to strengthen ties between the two countries, the leaders had also discussed other ways deepen their relationship, including security and defence, education and research.
Boris Johnson and Liz Truss set a deadline for a deal by Diwali in October last year, but Mr Sunak has rejected this timescale, pushing for a deeper deal over one achieved quickly.
He has previously told cabinet colleagues he does not want a simple deal on goods, but a comprehensive deal which tackles issues around services.
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The deal is reportedly being held up by a number of issues, including a disagreement over the number of visas for Indians to work in the UK and differences over the level of access British car manufacturers should be given to India’s market of 1.4 billion people.
Mr Sunak would not be drawn on what he called the “nitty gritty” of the negotiations.
Elsewhere at the summit, leaders granted permanent membership to the African Union in an effort to make the G20 more representative.
The G20 agenda featured issues critical to developing nations, including alternative fuels like hydrogen, resource efficiency, food security and developing a common framework for digital public infrastructure.
The summit is expected to be dominated by the West and its allies, with the Ukraine war looming large. Chinese President Xi Jinping is skipping the meeting and has sent premier Li Qiang instead, while Vladimir Putin has sent foreign minister Sergey Lavrov in his place.