Boris Johnson to start two-day India visit from Ahmedabad: From defence to trade, what’s on the agenda

The United Kingdom prime minister will begin his visit on 21 April from Ahmedabad and then travel to New Delhi to meet Narendra Modi. The leaders will discuss ways to further boost ties between the two nations

FP Explainers April 18, 2022 10:57:43 IST
Boris Johnson to start two-day India visit from Ahmedabad: From defence to trade, what’s on the agenda

Boris Johnson's 21 April visit to India comes after his prior trip in 2021 had to be cancelled. During his two-day visit, Johnson will hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AFP

After having to cancel his India trip last year owing to the rising COVID-19 cases in India, United Kingdom prime minister Boris Johnson will be in India on a two-day visit, starting 21 April.

Johnson’s visit to India comes at a time when Ukraine continues to fight Russia — it’s day 54 of the war — and the two countries have had divergent views on the conflict. While London has imposed economic sanctions on Moscow and supplied weapons to Kyiv, the Narendra Modi government has continued to toe a diplomatic fine line of neutrality and refused to back a United Nations Security Council vote that deplored Moscow’s “aggression” against its neighbour.

We take a look at what’s on the agenda and what’s being planned for BoJo’s visit to India.

Johnson’s itinerary for India

On his maiden visit to India, Boris Johnson will visit Gujarat and New Delhi. In Gujarat, he will tour Ahmedabad, the “ancestral home” of around half the Anglo-Indian population in Britain, the former colonial power.

Downing Street said this would be the first time a British prime minister has visited the western state.

“The visit will begin from Ahmedabad on Thursday (21 April) to meet with leading businesses and discuss the UK and India's thriving commercial, trade and people links. This will be the first time a UK prime minister will visit Gujarat, India's fifth-largest state and the ancestral home of around half of the British-Indian population in the UK,” it said.

From there, Johnson will visit New Delhi for talks on Friday with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi.

What’s on the agenda?

According to Johnson's office, the prime minister will use his trip to India to deepen relations, including in-depth talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Mod on the two nations’ “strategic defence, diplomatic and economic partnership”.

An AFP report said that Johnson in Gujarat would announce investments in “key industries” in Britain and India and collaboration on science, health and technology.

In New Delhi, he will hold talks with Narendra Modi with talks focused on defence and trade.

Boris Johnson will push for progress in talks on a free trade deal, which Britain is hoping to strike as part of its post-Brexit strategy. His office said such a trade deal was predicted to boost Britain's total trade by up to £28 billion ($36.5 billion) annually by 2035.

In the meeting, the two prime ministers will also review the implementation of the Roadmap 2030 and set their vision for further intensifying cooperation across the full spectrum of bilateral ties, said the Ministry of External Affairs.

The Russia-Ukraine war will also figure prominently in the talks between Modi and Johnson. In fact, on 17 April, Johnson tweeted about his visit to India and that it was “vital that democracies and friends stick together.”

Experts have noted that India’s neutral stance on the conflict, will remain a stalemate between the two countries.

The UK has been trying to persuade India to reduce its reliance on Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Last month, UK's foreign secretary Liz Truss visited India in an attempt to get the country to impose stronger sanctions against Russia and to cooperate more closely on trade, defence, energy and food security.

It is also important to note that Johnson’s visit to India comes at a time when the British prime minister is facing domestic problems — he was fined for breaking his own COVID-19 lockdown rules by attending a birthday party for him in Downing Street in June 2020.

Boris Johnson has said that he would “set the record straight” about gatherings in his office. He had previously told lawmakers there were no parties and guidance was always followed.

Johnson’s trip that never was

Boris Johnson was scheduled to visit India in 2021 as he was invited as the chief guest for the Republic Day parade.

However, he cancelled his visit in light of the growing health crisis in the UK created by the new variant of coronavirus.

It was then pushed to later in the year — around April. However, that too got cancelled owing to the rapid growth of COVID-19 cases in India, owing to the Omicron strain of the virus.

With inputs from agencies

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