British PM Sunak to meet India’s Modi and China’s Xi at G-20

In office for just three weeks, Mr Rishi Sunak has softened Britain’s approach to China. PHOTO: REUTERS

NUSA DUA – British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak will meet his Indian counterpart at the Group of 20 (G-20) summit and set out a professional exchange scheme, his office said, with talks also planned with Chinese President Xi Jinping for a “frank and constructive relationship”.

Mr Sunak, who took office as Britain’s third prime minister in two months in October, will meet leaders from Australia and Indonesia, as well as United States President Joe Biden, said Downing Street.

“The Indo-Pacific is increasingly crucial for our security and our prosperity. It is teeming with dynamic and fast-growing economies, and the next decade will be defined by what happens in this region,” Mr Sunak said.

Britain under former prime minister Boris Johnson said it would “tilt” its focus towards the region as part of its Integrated Review of government policy for the coming years.

But Mr Johnson’s promise of a trade deal with India by the end of October failed to materialise, with previous sticking points having included a steep import duty on British whiskey for sale in India. New Delhi is also keen on easier British visa for Indians.

Mr Sunak’s office said Britain was currently negotiating a trade deal with India, which, if agreed, “will be the first deal of its kind India has made with a European country”.

Separately, a new scheme, which will be announced when Mr Sunak meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday, will see Britain offer 3,000 places annually to degree-educated Indians aged 18 to 30 to live and work in Britain for up to two years.

“I know first-hand the incredible value of the deep cultural and historic ties we have with India,” said Mr Sunak, who is of Indian origin.

“I am pleased that even more of India’s brightest young people will now have the opportunity to experience all that life in the UK has to offer – and vice-versa – making our economies and societies richer.”

Mr Sunak, however, is expected to take a tougher tone with Mr Xi, with the statement describing the challenges posed by the world’s second-largest economy as “systemic” and “long-term”. His office said China’s “authoritarian leadership” was intent on “reshaping the international order”.

He is expected to encourage China to “use its place on the global stage responsibly to resolve geopolitical tensions”, and stress that the pre-condition for any Britain-China engagement will “always be the UK’s national security”. REUTERS

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