UK hopes to clinch Indian free trade deal by year-end

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Britain hopes to complete a free trade deal with India by the end of this year, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Thursday as he emphasised the need to reduce reliance on foreign oil and gas due to the conflict in Ukraine.

“We’re hoping to complete another free trade agreement with India by the end of the year, by the autumn,” Johnson told reporters in India’s western state of Gujarat during the start of his two-day visit to the country.

India abstained in a UN vote condemning Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, causing concern among major western countries.

But Johnson’s office had said before his visit that he would not lecture Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the matter. Moscow has called the war a “special operation.”

“India and Russia have, historically, a very different relationship, perhaps than Russia and the UK have had over the last couple of decades. We have to reflect that reality but clearly I’ll be talking about it to Narendra Modi,” Johnson said.

India imports defence equipment and oil from Russia.

“India and the UK both share anxieties about autocracies around the world. We’re both democracies, and we want to stick together,” Johnson said, stressing the need to move away from relying on foreign hydrocarbons.

“One of the things that we’re talking about is what we can do to build partnerships on hydrogen, on electric vehicles, on offshore wind… there’s also the opportunity for us to deepen our security and defence partnership.”