UK PM Boris Johnson reportedly planning India visit

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is planning a visit to India towards the end of this month with a focus on strengthening bilateral ties against the backdrop of the ongoing India-UK Free Trade Agreement negotiations.

According to Indian media reports, the visit, which is expected around April 22, is long overdue after Boris Johnson was forced to cancel planned visits to India twice last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

While Downing Street is yet to confirm any details, an in-person meeting was discussed during a phone call between Boris Johnson and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month.

"The leaders welcomed India and the UK's strong and prosperous relationship, and agreed to continue to build on trade, security and business ties in the coming weeks and months. They looked forward to meeting in-person at the earliest opportunity," a Downing Street spokesperson said in a readout of the call on March 22.

The two leaders last met in-person on the sidelines of the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow in November last year, when their bilateral talks during the World Leaders' Summit focussed on the India-UK climate partnership as well as a review of the 2030 Roadmap which they had signed during a virtual summit in May 2021.

The Roadmap, which aims to at least double bilateral trade between India and the UK by 2030, is part of Britain's so-called Indo-Pacific foreign policy tilt.

"A trade deal with India's booming economy offers huge benefits for British businesses, workers and consumers," Prime Minister Johnson said at the formal launch of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks earlier this year.

The conflict in Ukraine and the UK's leading role in imposing stringent sanctions against Russian President Vladimir Putin's regime is also likely to feature strongly during talks between Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Modi.

It will follow UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss' visit to Delhi last week, when she held talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and also joined him at the first India-UK Strategic Futures Forum.

The third round of India-UK FTA talks, scheduled to be hosted by India later this month, is likely to be timed around the prime ministerial visit.

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