Rishi Sunak visits India for G20 summit focused on a trade deal and Ukraine

The prime minister and his wife Akshata Murthy arriving in New Delhi on Friday morning

Rishi Sunak touched down in Delhi on Friday morning (UK time) for the G20 summit.

It's his first visit to India since becoming Britain’s first prime minister of Indian heritage, and the significance of that has not escaped him.

Talking to the travelling press pack on the plane, he described the country as “very near and dear to me” and joked: “I saw somewhere I’d been referred to as India’s son-in-law, which I hope was meant affectionately.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak holds a 'huddle' press conference with political journalists on board a Government plane. Credit: PA

The challenge of this trip will be to try to leverage that connection to smooth out wrinkles in the year and a half long negotiation to secure a trade deal with India. While also trying to ensure the G20 speaks with a united voice on Ukraine. 

The mood music on the first is pretty positive. 

The PM is not prepared to put a timeframe on closing a deal yet. His spokesperson stressing instead his commitment “to concluding an FTA with India which delivers for the British people, and this focus on delivery is a thread that will run through all of his engagements at the G20”.

But there are voices on both the British and Indian side, saying publicly, that a deal could be signed by the end of the year. 

With India overtaking the UK as the world’s fifth largest economy and on-course to leapfrog a few more, that would be a significant prize.

ITV News Political Correspondent Romilly Weeks reports from Delhi, where the PM is attending the G20 summit

On Ukraine, the UK is treading a delicate diplomatic path.

President Putin will not be attending the G20, but India has retained close ties with Moscow, including continuing to buy Russian weapons and oil. 

Under India’s Presidency of the G20 any joint declaration condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine has so far proved elusive. 

Unlike last year in Bali, President Zelenskyy has not been invited and it could be that this summit is the first since 1999 that fails to agree a joint statement.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his wife Akshata Murthy board the plane on their way to the G20 2023 Summit in New Delhi. Credit: PA

With the Chinese President also a no-show, China is still making its views clear, objecting to strong language on Ukraine and climate change proposals. 

The PM told us the message to Russia is clear “the fact that Putin is not here demonstrates his isolation in the global community.”

Rishi Sunak’s wife Akshata Murthy, herself the daughter of one of India’s most successful businessmen, is accompanying him on the trip. 

In symbolic terms the visit of “India’s son in law” is destined to be a success, the diplomatic wins will be harder work.

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