1. Recent UK government position on India

Recent years have seen the UK and India formalise their cooperation, with a framework for future relations agreed in May 2021 and a joint statement published in April 2022. The UK government also reaffirmed its commitment to strengthening its future relationship with India in the integrated review refresh in 2023.

1.1 Roadmap for India-UK future relations: May 2021

In May 2021, India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, and then UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed on a ‘2030 roadmap for India-UK future relations’ to “steer cooperation for the next ten years”.[1] The framework comprised “more than 1,000 lines of activity” across five pillars:

  • Connecting our countries and people. The roadmap acknowledged the existing strength of the UK-Indian relationship, with 1.6 million UK residents having Indian ethnicity, while highlighting the potential for further growth. It proposed upgrading institutional mechanisms to achieve goals in “all areas of cooperation”, including culture, education and research.
  • Trade and prosperity. Both countries announced that the framework was launching an “enhanced trade partnership” and outlined their intention to negotiate a free trade agreement (FTA).
  • Defence and security. The UK and India would work in a “strategic partnership” to strengthen efforts to tackle threats, such as crime and terrorism, and “develop a free, open and secure Indo-Pacific region”. They would also cooperate on areas such as cybersecurity through multilateral forums.
  • Climate. Both countries would lead international efforts to tackle climate change, promote sustainable development and limit global warming to “well below two degrees”.
  • Health. The roadmap described the UK and India as “a global force for good in health”, stating they would combine their strengths in research and innovation to address global health challenges, improve health and wellbeing, and save lives.

Alongside the roadmap, a joint statement was published.[2] The joint statement reiterated both prime ministers’ commitment to “enhanced bilateral India-UK cooperation” and summarised the key points of the roadmap.

1.2 UK-India joint statement: April 2022

Building on the 2030 roadmap, Boris Johnson met Narendra Modi in India for talks on defence, diplomacy and trade in April 2022.[3] Following the meeting, another joint statement was published.[4] The statement noted that both prime ministers agreed to “elevate India-UK relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership”. This would be underpinned by a “shared commitment to democracy, fundamental freedoms, multilateralism and a rules-based international order”. The statement also acknowledged progress in implementing the roadmap and reiterated commitments across similar areas to those of the roadmap:

  • Connecting our countries and people. The prime ministers celebrated the “special bond” between their nations, agreeing to further these ties. They also welcomed initiatives such as the ‘India/UK together’ programme, which celebrated India’s 75th year of independence by promoting cultural exchange and providing scholarships for 75 Indian students to study in the UK.
  • Trade and prosperity. They welcomed the launch of FTA negotiations and noted that “good progress” had been made. They also set a target to conclude the majority of the negotiations by October 2022.
  • Defence and security. Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening defence and security cooperation. This included supporting a “free, open and secure Indo-Pacific”. They also published a cyber statement which committed to “deepen[ing] cooperation across cyber governance, deterrence and strengthening cyber resilience”.[5]
  • Climate and clean energy. Both prime ministers underlined their commitment to the goals of the Paris Agreement and the 26th Conference of the Parties, emphasising the need to accelerate the clean energy transition. They also reiterated the need for developed countries to meet climate finance goals.
  • Health. They welcomed collaboration between the NHS and India’s National Health Authority in digital health and associated technologies. They announced that a ministerial dialogue on health would meet to agree on an ‘India-UK action plan on health and life sciences’ which would enhance collaboration in areas such as anti-microbial resistance and pandemic preparedness.

The joint statement also discussed regional, global and multilateral cooperation.[6] Both leaders strongly condemned the conflict in Ukraine, calling for a peaceful resolution. They also outlined their shared vision for an “open, free, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific”, where countries were free from economic, military and political coercion. Additionally, Boris Johnson reiterated the UK’s support for India’s permanent membership of a reformed UN Security Council.

1.3 Integrated review refresh: March 2023

In March 2023, the government published a refresh of the 2021 integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy, ‘Integrated review refresh 2023: Responding to a more contested and volatile world’.[7] The review stated that the UK would continue to strengthen its bilateral and institutional relationships across the Indo-Pacific. The government noted that it would strengthen its relationship with India through a “wide range of activity”. This included, but was not limited to:

  • building on the comprehensive strategic partnership
  • implementing the 2030 roadmap
  • supporting India’s G20 presidency
  • advancing negotiations on an FTA

1.4 Rishi Sunak’s visit to India: September 2023

In September 2023, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visited India to attend the G20 summit.[8] At the summit, Mr Sunak met with Narendra Modi. The Prime Minister’s Office published a press release providing further detail on the meeting. The press release noted that the prime ministers discussed the “close and growing ties” between the countries, agreeing that it was “important to build on the past and focus on the future” by “cementing a modern partnership” in defence technology, trade and innovation. The press release also stated that they had a “productive conversation” about negotiations on the FTA between the UK and India.

2. Trade relationship

The UK and India have sought to strengthen their trade relationship, with a focus on negotiating an FTA.

2.1 Current trading relationship

Data published by the Department for Business and Trade in February 2024 revealed that India was the UK’s 12th largest trading partner in the four quarters to the end of Q3 2023, with trade between the two countries reaching £38.1bn.[9] UK exports to India decreased by 4.1% to £14.9bn, and imports from India increased by 18.8% to £23.2bn over the same period.

2.2 Negotiating a free trade agreement

In January 2022, the government published its strategic approach to an FTA with India.[10] The approach noted that whilst the UK already had a “productive trading relationship with India”, an FTA could “deepen economic and strategic ties”.[11] The government also outlined that an FTA could lower trade costs for businesses and offer consumers greater choices and lower prices. The approach also detailed that the UK remained committed to upholding its standards in areas such as the environment and public health. Additionally, the approach stated that the NHS, its services and the cost of medicine were “not on the table” during negotiations.[12]

The UK and India opened negotiations in the same month.[13] The thirteenth round of negotiations took place from September to December 2023. On 19 December 2023, the minister of state for trade policy, Greg Hands, made a written statement on the negotiations.[14] The statement outlined the key areas of discussion, including goods, services and investment. It stressed both nations’ commitment to a “balanced deal” that would “strengthen economic ties and bring benefits to UK businesses, families and consumers”. The statement also announced that the fourteenth round of negotiations would begin in January 2024. At an event at Chatham House on 7 March 2024, the secretary of state for international trade, Kemi Badenoch, said that although the government could sign an agreement before the Indian election, she expressed doubt that this would happen, stating that it was “not necessarily going to be the case because I don’t want to use any election as a deadline”.[15] Voting for the election will be staggered, beginning on 19 April and ending on 1 June 2024. The results are expected to be announced on 4 June 2024.[16]

3. Recent parliamentary scrutiny of the UK’s relationship with India

Several committees have examined the UK’s relationship with India, particularly its negotiating objectives for a UK-India FTA.

3.1 House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry

In August 2023, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee published a report, ‘Tilting horizons: The integrated review and the Indo-Pacific’, examining the realignment of Britain’s foreign policy towards the Indo-Pacific region, as proposed in the integrated review.[17]

The committee praised the “prominence” given to India by the government in the integrated review refresh in 2023. It particularly welcomed the emphasis on collaboration in security, trade, and technology, building on the existing comprehensive strategic partnership and 2030 roadmap.[18] Additionally, the committee called on the government to maintain the pace of negotiations between the UK and India to ensure that agreement “can be reached as soon as possible”. It also highlighted the complex relationship between India and China, suggesting this presented an opportunity for the UK to partner India to “counter-balance the most aggressive instincts of the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] in the Indo-Pacific”.[19]

The committee made several recommendations on the UK’s relationship with India. This included calling on the government to set a deadline for the “early conclusion of negotiations” on the FTA.[20] It also called for the UK to pursue enhanced maritime security cooperation with India.

3.2 House of Commons International Trade Committee inquiry

In April 2023, the then House of Commons International Trade Committee published a report assessing the UK’s trade negotiations with India, ‘UK trade negotiations: Agreement with India’.[21] The committee noted that it had published the report prior to completing its inquiry, as the committee was being dissolved that month. It stated that it wanted to put its analysis of the negotiations “on record” for both the government and the committee which succeeded it, the House of Commons Business and Trade Committee.[22]

The committee criticised the government for providing it with information that had been “extremely limited in scope”. It also noted that requests for “basic information” from the government had been “met with less than helpful responses”.[23] Therefore, it called on the government to provide more details to Parliament on the negotiations whilst they were in progress. Despite the criticisms, it welcomed the government “no longer putting arbitrary deadlines on trade negotiations”, stating that the former deadline of October 2022 was “unrealistic”.

3.3 House of Lords International Agreements Committee inquiry

In July 2022, the House of Lords International Agreements Committee published a report examining the government’s negotiating objectives, ‘UK-India FTA: Scrutiny of the government’s negotiating objectives’.[24] The committee reported that whilst the potential economic benefits to the UK of a trade agreement with India were higher “compared to other post-Brexit agreements concluded to date”, it expressed several concerns.[25] In particular, the committee stated that India’s history of “relatively thin FTAs, historically protectionist policies and different regulatory approaches” meant that barriers and challenges to trade with India were “considerable and deep-rooted”.[26] Therefore, the committee noted that overcoming these barriers would require, in many areas, changes to India’s domestic legislation, “which could be a lengthy process”.[27] It also stated that the negotiating objectives for the FTA had, at times, appeared “overly ambitious and even unrealistic”.[28]

Kemi Badenoch responded to the committee in October 2022.[29] Ms Badenoch accepted that there were “considerable barriers” to negotiating an FTA with India because it had been “historically protectionist” and that it was “not without reason” that no G7 member had signed an FTA with India. She also accepted that any provisions that required changes to domestic legislation “could create delays or blocks to a deal”. Defending the government’s negotiating objectives, she said that they were based on “extensive” feedback from a 14-week consultation.

3.4 House of Lords debate on UK-India relations

In January 2023, the House of Lords debated the UK’s relationship with India.[30] Moving the debate, Baroness Verma (Conservative) stated that the UK had “real opportunities” to build on the relationship and “forge much stronger and closer collaborations”. This included in defence, cyber and AI development.[31]

Responding, Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, a minister of state at the FCDO, said that India was “one of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies” and was a “key partner” to the UK.[32] The minister stated that a “strong trade deal” with India “could boost the UK economy by billions of pounds over the long term, helping families across the country”. He said that “cutting red tape and high tariffs could also make it easier and cheaper for UK companies to sell in India, driving growth and supporting jobs”. He also highlighted collaboration on climate change and leading the “global shift to a low-carbon economy”, defence and maritime security in the Indo-Pacific.[33]

4. Read more

Cover image by Harish Shah on Unsplash.


  1. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, ‘2030 roadmap for India-UK future relations’, 4 May 2021. Return to text
  2. Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, ‘Joint statement on India-UK virtual summit, 4 May 2021: Roadmap 2030 for a comprehensive strategic partnership’, 4 May 2021. Return to text
  3. Prime Minister’s Office, ‘PM: UK-India partnership ‘brings security and prosperity for our people’’, 22 April 2022. Return to text
  4. Prime Minister’s Office, ‘UK-India joint statement April 2022: Towards shared security and prosperity through national resilience’, 22 April 2022. Return to text
  5. Prime Minister’s Office, ‘India-UK cyber statement, April 2022’, 22 April 2022. Return to text
  6. Prime Minister’s Office, ‘UK-India joint statement April 2022: Towards shared security and prosperity through national resilience’, 22 April 2022. Return to text
  7. Cabinet Office, ‘Integrated review refresh 2023: Responding to a more contested and volatile world’, 13 March 2023. Return to text
  8. Prime Minister’s Office, ‘PM meeting with Prime Minister Modi of India: 9 September 2023’, 9 September 2023. Return to text
  9. Department for Business and Trade, ‘Trade and investment factsheets: India’, 22 February 2024. Return to text
  10. Department for International Trade, ‘UK-India free trade agreement: The UK’s strategic approach’, 11 January 2022. Return to text
  11. As above, p 8. Return to text
  12. As above, p 10. Return to text
  13. House of Commons, ‘Written statement: UK-India free trade agreement negotiations (HCWS533)’, 13 January 2022. Return to text
  14. House of Commons, ‘Written statement: India trade negotiations update (HCWS160)’, 19 December 2023. Return to text
  15. Alistair Smout, ‘UK trade minister doesn’t see India election as a deadline for trade deal’, Reuters, 7 March 2024. Return to text
  16. BBC News, ‘India elections 2024: Vote to be held in seven stages’, 17 March 2024. Return to text
  17. House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, ‘Tilting horizons: The integrated review and the Indo-Pacific’, 30 August 2023, HC 172 of session 2022–23 incorporating HC 684 of session 2021–22. Return to text
  18. As above, p 54. Return to text
  19. As above, p 55. Return to text
  20. As above. Return to text
  21. House of Commons International Trade Committee, ‘UK trade negotiations: Agreement with India’, 21 April 2023, HC 77 of session 2022–23. Return to text
  22. As above, p 4. Return to text
  23. As above, p 3. Return to text
  24. House of Lords International Agreements Committee, ‘UK-India FTA: Scrutiny of the government’s negotiating objectives’, 22 July 2022, HL Paper 53 of session 2022–23. Return to text
  25. As above, p 2. Return to text
  26. As above, p 9. Return to text
  27. As above. Return to text
  28. As above, p 25. Return to text
  29. House of Lords International Agreements Committee, ‘Letter to Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town, then chair of the International Agreements Committee, ref government response to UK-India free trade agreement report’, 18 October 2022. Return to text
  30. HL Hansard, 19 January 2023, cols 2007–42. Return to text
  31. HL Hansard, 19 January 2023, col 2007. Return to text
  32. HL Hansard, 19 January 2023, col 2039. Return to text
  33. HL Hansard, 19 January 2023, col 2041. Return to text