Rishi Sunak is set to land in New Delhi for the G20 summit in what No10 called a “historic moment”, amid trade deal negotiations to land an agreement with India.
The prime minister, travelling with his wife Akshata Murty, will meet Indian prime minister Narendra Modi for bilateral talks.
And officials have not ruled out the pair discussing the UK-India free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations and their progress.
Downing Street said Sunak’s visit, as the first British prime minister of Indian descent, was a “powerful reminder of the living bridge which exists between our two countries”.
London and New Delhi, according to UK government figures, had a £36bn trading relationship in 2022-2023 but Sunak is known to be keen to finalise an economy-boosting post-Brexit trade agreement with the country that has a population of 1.4bn people.
With former Tory prime minister Boris Johnson originally targeting an October 2022 completion deadline, there has been speculation that one of the hold-ups to a trade pact is India’s push for more visas to be granted for its people to work in Britain.
But Downing Street said the UK would not bend on its immigration stance in order to achieve a free trade deal, with no target date set by Mr Sunak for signing off on new trade terms.
Ahead of the trip, the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “This is a trade deal which is focused on trade and business. Immigration is a separate issue.
“The only aspect of the movement of people covered by an FTA is business mobility, which is a temporary movement of business people for specific purposes.
“I can’t get into more detail about what has been discussed but there are no plans to change our immigration policy to achieve an FTA.”
During the G20, Sunak said he wanted to confront Russia about its invasion of Ukraine, saying of Russian president Vladimir Putin: “He doesn’t want to be held accountable.”
Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping have opted not to attend the global summit. While the Prime Minister did not commit to meeting Li Qang, Jinping’s deputy.
Sunak is expected to address the summit about climate change and support for the global economy, as well as focusing on issues such as migration and the war in Ukraine.
He will also meet with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, after the UK reached a deal to rejoin Horizon, and visit cultural sites including a Hindu temple.