Narendra Modi postpones Rishi Sunak meeting at G20 summit as PM insists trade deal is 'not a given'

8 September 2023, 22:17

Rishi Sunak has yet to meet Narendra Modi at the G20 summit
Rishi Sunak has yet to meet Narendra Modi at the G20 summit. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has postponed a meeting with Rishi Sunak at the G20 summit in New Delhi.

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Mr Sunak and Mr Modi had been due to meet on Friday evening, but will hold talks later on the sidelines of the three-day event.

Mr Modi met Joe Biden instead on Friday and discussed democracy, technology and infrastructure plans.

Mr Sunak had an informal meeting with Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, before having a private dinner with his wife Akshata Murty.

It comes after Mr Sunak said he wouldn't "rush" into a long-awaited UK trade deal with India.

Read more: Rishi Sunak 'won't rush' UK-India trade deal amid wrangle over visa rules

Read more: Rishi Sunak says he's 'India's son-in-law' as he touches down for G20 summit amid wrangle over trade deal

Rishi Sunak and Akshata Murty
Rishi Sunak and Akshata Murty. Picture: Getty

He said: "Without question, India is going to be one of the most significant countries geopolitically over the next years and decades, and it is vitally important for the UK to deepen our ties particularly economically and more broadly with India.

"That is why we've been working towards an ambitious and comprehensive free trade deal.

"But it is not a given. These things are a lot of work and a lot of time.

"That is why I've never put artificial deadlines on these trade deals.

"I've always said we shouldn't sacrifice quality for speed."

Akshata Murty
Akshata Murty. Picture: Getty

Mr Sunak said any new trading terms with India and its population of 1.4 billion people needed to produce "something that works genuinely for both sides".

Asked whether he would discuss the state of the negotiations with the Indian leader during their meeting, the Prime Minister said: "Of course.

"Every time I see prime minister Modi it is something we check in at but that is not the main purpose of this visit and this trip.

"There are lots of other things we're going to be discussing and work on that is ongoing."

Rishi Sunak and Akshata Murty arrive in India
Rishi Sunak and Akshata Murty arrive in India. Picture: Getty

is understood that Mr Modi’s negotiators had been demanding more visas for nurses and IT professionals as the price of a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK.

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.

However, a No 10 spokesman insisted that any free trade agreement (FTA) would only focus on “trade and business”, adding: “Immigration is a separate issue."

Mr Sunak was given a colourful welcome on his arrival in Delhi on Friday, with traditional dancers and music greeting him as he stepped off his plane.

He later met local school children with his wife Akshata Murty, the daughter of the billionaire co-founder of Indian IT giant Infosys.

Ahead of touching down Mr Sunak described the country as "very near and dear to me".