Jaishankar optimistic about Starmer’s commitment to U.K.-India ties

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with U.K.’s Leader of Opposition Keir Starmer during a meeting.
| Photo Credit: PTI

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar met with Labour Party leader Keir Starmer on Wednesday, during his visit to London, and expressed optimism that the India-U.K. relationship would be furthered by Labour should the party be in power after the U.K.’s next general election. With the country going to polls within about a year, Mr. Starmer is the frontrunner to be the U.K.’s next Prime Minister, as per polling data.

The Labour Party positions are “very much in support of the further growth of our ties”, Mr. Jaishankar told The Hindu at a press briefing at the end of his visit on Wednesday.

The Labour Party’s relationship with India has been strained in recent years, owing to fundamental political differences with the right-wing majoritarian Modi government. It’s position on Jammu and Kashmir has also irked New Delhi. (Labour had, in 2019, called for self-determination and observers in the Union Territory, positions it later walked back).

Eager to reboot the relationship, Mr. Starmer had declared during the U.K.-India Week conference in June this year, that he wanted “to ensure that we have the right relationship as we go forward”.

The Labour leader was keen to get a sense of U.K.-India ties and what was currently on the agenda, as per Mr. Jaishankar, and they discussed the ‘free trade’ agreement, technology collaboration, people-people exchanges and students during their meeting on Wednesday.

“We spent some time talking about health,” Mr. Jaishankar said. The two politicians discussed India-U.K. collaboration on health during the COVID-19 pandemic. (The Serum Institute of India was a manufacturer of the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine).

Mr. Jaishankar said he found Mr. Starmer “very enthusiastic” about developing the U.K.-India relationship.

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