UK PM Boris Johnson to ring in 2021 with visit to India

UK PM Boris Johnson to ring in 2021 with visit to India

Boris Johnson will ring in the New Year with his first major overseas tour since taking charge as UK Prime Minister in 2019 to India. He formally accepted an invitation by the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to be the Guest of Honour at the Republic Day celebrations on January 26, making him only the second British leader since Indian independence to attend the annual parade in New Delhi.

Johnson said: “I am absolutely delighted to be visiting India next year at the start of an exciting year for Global Britain, and look forward to delivering the quantum leap in our bilateral relationship that Prime Minister Modi and I have pledged to achieve.

“As a key player in the Indo-Pacific region, India is an increasingly indispensable partner for the United Kingdom as we work to boost jobs and growth, confront shared threats to our security and protect our planet,” he said.

Republic Day marks the day on which the Constitution of an independent India came into effect, on January 26, 1950, and is celebrated with pomp and show annually, not only in India but also by Global Indians around the world at the respective High Commissions, Embassies and Consulates of India.

Like-minded democracies

Downing Street said that Johnson has written to Prime Minister Modi not only to accept his invitation for a visit to India but also to invite India to attend the UK’s G7 Summit as one of three guest nations alongside South Korea and Australia – with a focus on his declared ambition to work with a group of “like-minded democracies” to advance shared interests and tackle common challenges.

The UK and India are described as “significant investors and markets” for each other’s economies and, according to official data, the growing trade and investment relationship is worth around £24 billion a year, supporting more than half a million jobs. There are 842 Indian companies in the UK with a combined turnover of £41.2 billion, creating jobs in all corners of the UK.

Downing Street said: “As the ‘pharmacy of the world’ India supplies more than 50 per cent of the world’s vaccines, with over a billion doses of the UK’s Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine being manufactured at India’s Serum Institute in Pune.

“Our countries have cooperated closely throughout the coronavirus outbreak to maintain the flow of medical goods for our citizens. The UK has received 11 million face masks and 3 million packets of paracetamol from India during the pandemic, and we continue to work together to keep vital supply chains open.”

Climate focus

Besides trade and investment, climate change is expected to feature prominently during the high-profile visit, widely expected to pave the way for a post-Brexit UK-India free trade agreement (FTA). Johnson had recently hailed the “incredible things” being done by India in his address to the Climate Ambition Summit last weekend, co-hosted by the UK to mark the fifth anniversary of the UN Paris climate agreement.

“We’re going ahead with a massive solar programme, even though we can’t hope to emulate the incredible things being done by India, Australia or Morocco for instance,” he said.

The summit, held as a precursor to the UK’s hosting of the United Nations’ COP26 summit in November 2021, also included an address by the Indian PM, who reiterated India’s commitment to the United Nations goals.

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