Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his UK counterpart Rishi Sunak on Thursday agreed on the "early conclusion" of a balanced free trade agreement (FTA) and on deepening the security and economic partnership between the two countries.
These issues figured in the first phone conversation between the two leaders since Sunak took over as the first Indian-origin prime minister of Britain. The two sides were unable to meet an earlier deadline for concluding a trade deal by Diwali, largely because of the political turmoil in Britain.
In a tweet on his conversation with Sunak, PM Modi said: "Congratulated him on assuming charge as UK PM. We will work together to further strengthen our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. We also agreed on the importance of early conclusion of a comprehensive and balanced FTA."
Sunak thanked Modi in a tweet for his "kind words as I get started in my new role", and said the UK and India "share so much".
He added: "I'm excited about what our two great democracies can achieve as we deepen our security, defence and economic partnership in the months & years ahead."
A spokeswoman for the UK Prime Minister's Office quoted Sunak as saying that he "hoped the UK and India could continue to make good progress in negotiations to finalise a comprehensive free trade agreement".
In the phone call, Sunak described himself as "a visual representation of the historic links between the UK and India", and said that he "intended to build on this relationship to develop ever closer ties between our two countries".
Modi conveyed his best wishes on Sunak's appointment "on behalf of 1.6 billion Indians", the spokeswoman said.
While discussing shared global challenges, Sunak praised Modi's leadership on tackling climate change and the leaders "welcomed opportunities to bolster our security, defence and economic partnership", according to the spokeswoman.
"The leaders also agreed to work together as two great democracies to strengthen the developing economies of the world, and looked forward to meeting in person at the G20 in Indonesia," she added.
UK home secretary Suella Braverman, who has returned to the role in Rishi Sunak's cabinet after being removed by former premier Liz Truss because she included secret information in an email sent from her personal ID, angered New Delhi with her remarks that the trade deal would lead to increased immigration from India.
The two sides are yet to address differences on key issues such as the mobility of professionals and students and tariffs on automobiles.
The two premiers spoke a day ahead of UK foreign secretary James Cleverly's arrival in India on Friday to attend a special meeting of the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee. This will be Cleverly's first official trip to India, during which he will also meet his counterpart S Jaishankar and discuss strengthening the bilateral relationship.
Cleverly will visit Mumbai on Friday and travel to New Delhi on Saturday. In Mumbai, he will pay his respects to those who were killed in the 2008 terror attacks. On Saturday, he will speak at the meeting of the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee.