Why India is the post-Covid destination of choice for Boris Johnson

Why India is the post-Covid destination of choice for Boris Johnson
Courtesy: Oli Scarff / Staff | Getty Images News via Getty Images

It’s official – India will be UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s first international visit since the Covid-19 crisis hamstrung his international travel plans and since Britain formally left the European Union (EU) at the start of this year.

Downing Street officials confirmed that the PM is particularly looking forward to the visit, now confirmed for the end of April, not least because it is the first anywhere in a “very long time”. It had been postponed from a planned Republic Day tour in January as a new variant of coronavirus wreaked havoc in the domestic arena Johnson. But he had said the missed date would be made up for before the G7 Summit in Cornwall in June, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to visit the UK as a guest of the UK PM.

“I am delighted to announce that I will visit India next month to strengthen our friendship with the world’s biggest democracy,” Johnson told the House of Commons this week.

“We have a shared vision for a sustainable future for our nations and global community and I very much look forward to discussing this and many other issues with Prime Minister Modi on my upcoming visit to India,” he added, in a message from Downing Street in London for the India-led Coalition for Disaster Resilience Infrastructure (CDRI).

Regional realignment

The significance of that announcement falls within a wider realignment of Britain’s foreign policy agenda for the next decade with the launch of its new Integrated Review, which has committed to a decisive Indo-Pacific tilt – with India at the centre of that pivot.

As the Review notes: “As Commonwealth nations, we have strong cultural links: 1.5 million British nationals are of Indian origin; and we enjoy broad collaboration across the education sector.

“We will take a major step towards achieving this vision in 2021 when we launch our Enhanced Trade Partnership with India as a roadmap to a potential comprehensive trade deal. This relationship will be underpinned by our largest single country diplomatic network anywhere in the world, with more than 800 staff spread across 11 posts.”

Force for good

The 100-page document entitled ‘Global Britain in a competitive age: The Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy’ firmly spells out the importance that a post-Brexit UK places on the world’s largest democracy as a joint force for good in the world.

“An ambitious plan laid out by the PM that requires India as a trustworthy partner and ally to realise,” notes Lakshmi Kaul, the UK Head of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

This Global Britain vision, now firmly defined in a document, is not limited to just re-energising trade and investment ties with India but also enhanced defence cooperation and collective leadership to tackle global challenges like climate change, clean energy and global health.

In the context of global health, Johnson pointed to the collaboration already delivering results for the world in its fightback against the coronavirus pandemic.

“That vaccine is safe and works extremely well, and now, only six months later, it is being made in multiple places from India to the US, as well as Britain, and it is being used around the world,” said Johnson, in reference to the tie-up between the Serum Institute of India and the Oxford/AstraZeneca to meet global vaccine demands.

It is no wonder then that the UK PM chose India as the first stop on his finally revived international travel calendar for the year.

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