UK PM Johnson to begin India visit next week from Gujarat

UK PM Johnson to begin India visit next week from Gujarat.

London, TGO: After twice postponing a visit to India since the 2019 general election, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to land in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, on Thursday (April 21) for a two-day visit described on Saturday by Downing Street “as part of the UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt”.

Britain has been keen to forge a free trade agreement (FTA) with India after Brexit. Out of 26 ‘chapters’ (trade areas) under discussion, four have been completed. An interim trade agreement is expected to be announced during the visit.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister will visit India this week to deepen our long-term partnership for peace and prosperity with a fellow leading democracy, in the face of global economic challenges and threats from autocratic states.”

India was identified as a priority relationship for the UK in the 2021 Integrated Review, which marked the UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt, and was invited by the UK as a guest to last year’s G7 summit.

It will be the first time a British 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.

Johnson will then travel to New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday (April 22) for talks on the UK and India’s strategic defence, diplomatic and economic partnership, aimed at bolstering close partnership and stepping up security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.

“In Gujarat, the prime minister is expected to announce major investment in key industries in both the UK and India, boosting jobs and growth at home, as well as new collaboration on cutting-edge science, health and technology,” the spokesperson added.

Johnson will use the visit to drive progress in the FTA negotiations launched earlier this year. A deal with India is predicted to boost Britain’s total trade by up to £28 billion annually by 2035 and increase incomes across the UK by up to £3 billion.

Speaking ahead of the visit, Johnson said: “As we face threats to our peace and prosperity from autocratic states, it is vital that democracies and friends stick together. India, as a major economic power and the world’s largest democracy, is a highly valued strategic partner for the UK in these uncertain times”.

“My visit to India will deliver on the things that really matter to the people of both our nations — from job creation and economic growth, to energy security and defence,” he added.