Boris Johnson in India to deepen strategic ties

Boris Johnson in India to deepen strategic ties
Courtesy: Andrew Parsons / No 10 Downing Street

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the UK Parliament that his two-day visit to India, starting in Gujarat on April 21, will deepen the strategic trade, defence and people to people ties between the two countries.

Addressing the House of Commons for his weekly Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on the eve of his visit this week, Johnson said 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,” Johnson told members of Parliament.

“I will be seeing Prime Minister Modi in Delhi, meeting Indian business people investing in the UK and visiting British investments in India,” he said.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi had addressed the G7 summit at Carbis Bay virtually as his travel plans were impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. The two leaders met in person later in the year, when Modi travelled to Glasgow for the COP26 climate summit in November. This followed Boris Johnson’s planned visits to India in 2021 being cancelled twice due to the pandemic situation in either country.

This week, it is expected that the Russia-Ukraine conflict will feature during the bilateral talks between the leaders when Johnson is in New Delhi on April 22.

“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,” said Boris Johnson’s official spokesperson at Downing Street in London.

“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.

Asked if the issue is likely to dominate the closed-door discussions between the two Prime Ministers, the spokesperson asserted that it would be one of many topics.

“Obviously, Russia-Ukraine is a huge priority for the UK at the moment and for the world. It’s a global issue that has destablised the economy, the oil markets and international security. So, it would absolutely be on the agenda,” the spokesperson said.

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Downing Street has reiterated the position that "different countries are in a different position" when it comes to energy security and that the UK accepts that dynamic in relation to levels of Russian oil imports, whether it is in Europe or in India.

Meanwhile, with the third round of free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations scheduled in Delhi for next week, Boris Johnson’s first visit to India as Prime Minister is also expected to push forward trade talks towards an end of the year agreement timeline.

“Both countries have set out an intention to reach an agreement by the end of this year. It’s not a fixed deadline, we won’t rush it. We would take as long as it takes to reach a good deal for both countries,” his spokesperson said.

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