London: Defence, security and trade relations will top the agenda of talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Theresa May as they will cover the "breadth" of ties, a top Downing Street official has said.
The two leaders will discuss the "breadth" of India-UK relations during their working lunch at Hyderabad House on Monday afternoon, May's official spokesperson told reporters at Downing Street in London.
"It will not be about how many deals are signed or that kind of transactional visit but more about the depth of the ties and working towards creating more jobs and growth in both countries. Defence and security will be an important part of the bilateral discussions. We are keen to develop that partnership and see how we can put in more energy and enthusiasm into that," she said.
"Why the Prime Minister is going to India for her first bilateral visit outside Europe, and her first trade delegation, is because India matters to us — now more than ever. In the context of Britain leaving the European Union (EU), the aim is two-fold — to build on the groundwork already done to bring down trade barriers and deepen the UK's relationships outside the EU," she noted.
In reference to discussions on a potential India-UK free trade agreement (FTA), the spokesperson stressed that the UK would not be pursuing a bilateral trade deal with India while it remains a member of the EU.
"We will continue to support the India-EU FTA, respecting our rights and obligations within the EU," she said.
While there has been wide speculation over a potential India-UK FTA, Britain remains inhibited from openly pursuing bilateral trade negotiations until Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty triggers the official process of Brexit.
May will begin her India visit by opening the India-UK Tech Summit on Monday morning alongside Modi.
Following her bilateral talks with Modi, both leaders will issue a joint statement.
While in New Delhi, she is also expected to visit the Gandhi Smriti and War Memorial at India Gate.
On Tuesday, she will leave for Bengaluru, where she has a series of business engagements as well as an address to a tech summit.
The British premier will be accompanied by 40 small and medium enterprise (SME) representatives from across the UK, many of whom are on the lookout for a foothold in India.
The recent tightening of the Tier 2 intra-company transfer (ICT) visas, expected to hit Indian IT companies the hardest, is expected to be on the agenda from the Indian side.
However, Downing Street stressed the UK remains open to the "brightest and the best" from India and that Indians had been issued more work-related visas than the US, China and Australia combined.
On the sharp decline in Indian student numbers coming to study in the UK over the years, she highlighted that 89 per cent of all Indian students who applied to study at UK universities were given visas.
"This visit is about highlighting that the UK-India relationship really matters. The UK is the largest G20 investor in India and India is the second largest job creator in the UK. There are strong bonds and ties there and it is important to keep up the momentum," the spokesperson said.
May will be accompanied by international trade secretary Liam Fox and minister of state in the Department for International Trade, Greg Hands.