New Delhi: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday arrived in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad for his long-delayed visit to India.
After Ahemadabad, Boris Johnson will proceed to New Delhi to meet PM Modi on Friday, where the focus will be on India-UK strategic defence, diplomatic, and economic partnership.
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Addressing the House of Commons for his weekly Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday, Johnson said that the trip to Ahmedabad and New Delhi will build on India being invited as a guest country for the G7 Summit hosted by the UK in Cornwall in June last year.
“I will be travelling to India to deepen the strategic trade, defence and people-to-people ties between our two countries, building on India’s involvement in the Carbis Bay G7 summit,” the British Prime Minister told members of Parliament, as quoted by news agency PTI.
UK PM Boris* Johnson arrives in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. He is on a 2-day India visit pic.twitter.com/yzwlX5Dppg
— ANI (@ANI) April 21, 2022
It is Johnson’s first major trip to India as Prime Minister after previous visits were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. With his arrival in Ahemadabad, Johnson has also become the first British Prime Minister to visit Gujarat.
“I will be seeing Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi in Delhi, meeting Indian business people investing in the UK and visiting British investments in India,” he said.
UK Would Not Look To “Lecture” India Over Its Neutral Stance On Russia-Ukraine Issue
Ahead of Johnson’s two-day visit, Downing Street stressed that the UK would not look to “lecture” India over its neutral stance in the United Nations on the Russia-Ukraine issue or New Delhi’s decision to hike Russian oil imports.
The statement comes as the UK has been trying to persuade New Delhi to reduce its reliance on Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
“This visit is not framed on the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Obviously, that is really important but this is a visit we have planned for a very long time. India is an incredibly important partner,” Johnson’s official spokesperson, who is accompanying him to India, told reporters at Downing Street.
Last month, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss visited India to persuade New Delhi to reduce its reliance on imports from Russia and to cooperate more closely with the UK on trade, defence, energy and food security.
“The Prime Minister has been wanting to make this trip to build our partnership across trade, investment, security and defence, and green energy. We will be discussing all those issues and it is expected that Russia-Ukraine will be on the agenda. But we won’t be seeking to sort of lecture India or try and persuade them into one position or another. We will be seeking to work together constructively as an important international partner,” the spokesperson said, as quoted by PTI.
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Boris Johnson’s Meeting With PM Modi & Push For FTA Talks
The first day of Boris Jonson’s visit will be focused on trade, investment and commercial matters in Ahmedabad, involving a visit to a university and a new business as well as some cultural sightseeing.
In New Delhi on Friday, the UK Prime Minister is slated to have a ceremonial day of greetings and meetings with PM Narendra Modi and business leaders. Unlike previous prime ministerial visits, he is not accompanied by a business delegation from the UK.
As per an earlier statement by Downing Street, the British Prime Minister is expected to announce major investment in key industries in both the UK and India, boosting jobs and growth at home, as well as new collaboration on cutting-edge science, health and technology.
“The leaders will hold in-depth talks on the UK and India’s strategic defence, diplomatic and economic partnership, aimed at bolstering our close partnership and stepping up security co-operation in the Indo-Pacific,” the statement said.
The British High Commission had stated that the UK Prime Minister will also use his India visit to drive progress in the ongoing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations launched earlier this year.
Ahead of the third round of FTA negotiations scheduled in Delhi for next week, Johnson is expected to push forward trade talks towards an end-of-the-year agreement timeline.
The two leaders are expected to put forth a timeline for the possible completion of the process, it was initially set to conclude this year.
The FTA talks are expected to result in a deal predicted to boost the UK’s total trade by up to 28 billion pounds (USD 36 billion) annually by 2035 and increase incomes across the UK by up to 3 billion pounds (USD 3.9 billion).
At the end of the first two rounds, four out of 26 chapters are said to have been agreed while there has been significant progress in the remaining 22 chapters of the FTA.
The official estimates in the UK reveal that investment from Indian companies already supports 95,000 jobs across the UK, which is expected to be boosted by upcoming announcements and a future free trade deal.
PM Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson last met in person on the sidelines of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November last year.
(With Agency Inputs)