UK Opposition Leader Keir Starmer has compared the progress of the government’s negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) with India to the Bollywood film “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham” and pledged the Labour Party’s commitment to fostering an “always happy” bilateral relationship. Speaking at a Diwali celebration in London, Starmer referred to the popular movie, which translates to “sometimes happy, sometimes sad.” Currently, India and the UK are in the 14th round of FTA negotiations aimed at strengthening their £36 billion bilateral trading partnership. Starmer emphasized the need for a new strategic partnership with India to rebuild Britain’s reputation on the international stage. While the Conservative government has been working on a free trade agreement, Starmer expressed that Labour wants more than just a stop-and-start approach. He called for a deeper understanding and a relationship based on shared values of democracy, aspiration, and respect. The FTA talks began in January last year with an initial deadline of Diwali 2022, but no new timelines have been set under the current Tory government. Both sides aim to finalize the agreement before the general elections in India and the UK in 2024. Meanwhile, the Labour Party is reaching out to the estimated 1.9 million-strong Indian community electorate in the UK. Starmer expressed admiration and respect for the contribution of British Indians to the country and discussed various topics with senior members of his shadow cabinet at the event. The Diwali celebration also included representatives from different faiths, highlighting community cohesion. Anneliese Dodds, chair of the Labour Party, emphasized the importance of the message of light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance in these times.
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