Rishi Sunak says he is India's 'son-in-law' as he arrives for G20September 8, 2023
Rishi Sunak says he is India’s ‘son-in-law’ as he arrives for G20 summit amid post-Brexit trade deal spat over whether students should get two-year visas – and swipes at Putin for ducking attending
Rishi Sunak tagged himself ‘India’s son-in-law’ today as he arrives for the G20 summit amid wrangling over a post-Brexit trade deal.
The PM, whose wife Akshata is the daughter of an Indian billionaire, said the Asian country is ‘very near and dear to me’ ahead of touching down in New Delhi.
But despite the warmth Mr Sunak is facing tricky discussions about trade when he meets counterpart Narendra Modi at the gathering of powerful nations.
Hopes a bilateral deal would be finalised this week have been dashed by tensions over visas.
Currently Indian students are allowed to stay in the UK for two years after graduating, but Mr Modi wants to enshrine that in an agreement after Home Secretary Suella Braverman suggested the rules could change.
Mr Sunak will also urge India to take a firmer stance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and swiped at Vladimir Putin for refusing to attend and be held ‘accountable’ by other leaders.
Rishi Sunak, whose wife Akshata is the daughter of an Indian billionaire, said the Asian country is ‘very near and dear to me’ ahead of touching down in New Delhi. The PM is pictured with journalists on the plane
Mr Sunak is facing tricky discussions about trade when he meets counterpart Narendra Modi (pictured right) at the gathering of powerful nations
London and New Delhi had a £36billion trading relationship in 2022/23 but Mr Sunak is keen to finalise an economy-boosting trade agreement with the country that has a population of 1.4billion people.
Boris Johnson originally targeted an October 2022 completion deadline, but one of the hold-ups to a trade pact has been India’s push for more visas to be granted to work in Britain.
Downing Street said the UK would not bend on its immigration stance in order to achieve a free trade deal, with no target date set by Mr Sunak for signing off on new trade terms. There has been speculation about another visit later in the year to seal an agreement.
Ahead of the trip, the PM’s official spokesman said: ‘This is a trade deal which is focused on trade and business. Immigration is a separate issue.
‘The only aspect of the movement of people covered by an FTA is business mobility, which is a temporary movement of business people for specific purposes.
‘I can’t get into more detail about what has been discussed but there are no plans to change our immigration policy to achieve an FTA.’
The spokesman said the G20 was ‘not designed as a moment for the FTA specifically’, with attention on other geopolitical issues.
Leaders of the G20, which includes the European Union and the likes of China, the US, Brazil and Russia, began holding summits following the 2008 global financial crisis, creating a top-level forum to discuss international challenges.
While at the Indian summit, Mr Sunak has vowed to confront Russia about its invasion of Ukraine, despite the host country keeping ties open with Moscow since the conflict started in February last year.
Mr Putin has opted not to attend the New Delhi gathering in person but his foreign minister Sergei Lavrov is expected to attend.
Mr Sunak, asked by reporters whether he had a message for Mr Lavrov at the G20, said: ‘When it comes to Lavrov, the message is, the fact that Putin is not there demonstrates his isolation in the global community.
‘He wasn’t there last year, he is not there this year to answer for what he is doing.
‘He doesn’t want to be held accountable.’
China’s Xi Jinping is also staying away from India, thwarting Downing Street’s hopes for a face-to-face meeting.
Mr Sunak is the first British prime minister of Indian descent and was a regular visitor to the country before being promoted to Chancellor by former No 10 incumbent Boris Johnson shortly before the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
The MP for Richmond, Yorkshire, was born in Hampshire, to Indian migrant parents – a pharmacist mother and a GP father.
The 43-year-old is married to Akshata Murty, the daughter of NR Narayana Murthy, the founder of Indian IT giant Infosys and a major figure in the country.
The Prime Minister was asked by reporters travelling from London to the Indian capital with him what it meant to be returning to India as PM.
He said: ‘Of course it is special. I’ll be visiting a country that is very near and dear to me.
‘I haven’t been back for a few years. I was meant to go actually in 2020.
Mr Sunak will also urge India to take a firmer stance against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and swiped at Vladimir Putin for refusing to attend and be held ‘accountable’ by other leaders
‘We take our family typically in February half term every year, and I got made chancellor right before and I didn’t get to go with the rest of my family then, so I haven’t been for a little while.’
He continued: ‘It is obviously special. I saw somewhere that I was referred to as India’s son-in-law, which I hope was meant affectionately.
‘But look, I’m excited to be back. It is nice to have Akshata with me as well.’
The Prime Minister has not shied away from talking about his Indian origins and love for cricket.
He has also spoken about his abstinence from beef on religious grounds as a devout Hindu.
In 2020, he told reporters: ‘I am thoroughly British, this is my home and my country, but my cultural heritage is Indian.’
During his time in New Delhi, Mr Sunak is scheduled to visit important Indian cultural and religious sites, with a trip to a Hindu temple planned during his three-day stay.
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