A bilateral free trade agreement, cooperation in areas ranging from security to education and the Ukraine crisis are expected to be on the agenda for UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to India next week.
With the free trade agreement dominating recent engagements between the two sides, Johnson and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi will review the discussions held so far and issue guidelines for the officials involved in the negotiations, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.
India will host the third round of negotiations for the trade pact in a hybrid format in New Delhi in the last week of this month. A team of British officials is set to visit India for these discussions.
The UK has been keen on forging new trade pacts with leading economies since its exit from the European Union and the British government is focused on the speedy conclusion of a deal with India.
Several agreements are also expected to be signed during Johnson’s two-day visit that is set to begin on April 21, the people said. Besides New Delhi, Johnson is also expected to travel to Bengaluru.
As with UK foreign secretary Liz Truss’s visit to New Delhi last month, the Ukraine crisis is set to figure in Johnson’s meetings with his interlocutors in New Delhi. Truss had emphasized that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine underlined the importance of working together to deter aggressors and to strengthen global security. She also highlighted the importance of all countries reducing their strategic dependency on Russia.
The UK has been at the forefront in imposing sanctions on Russia and in providing financial and military support to Ukraine. Johnson recently made a surprise visit to Kyiv to meet President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, pledging to provide more weapons to Ukraine.
India has condemned the civilian killings in Bucha and repeatedly emphasized the need to end hostilities and return to the path of dialogue. Modi has also called for direct talks between the Russian and Ukrainian leaders.
Johnson’s visit to India has been in the pipeline for several months, and he called off two trips to India last year – in January, when he was to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations, because of a spike in Covid-19. cases in the UK, and in April, when India was hit by a deadly second wave.
Truss’s visit prepared the grounds for the trip by Johnson, with the two sides exploring the possibilities for cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and in defense, including transfer of technology and joint production of equipment.
Modi and Johnson last met on the margins of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow last November, when they reviewed the 2030 Roadmap which they had finalized at a virtual summit in May 2021.
The roadmap, which aims to double two-way trade by 2030, is part of Britain’s tilt towards the Indo-Pacific.