Boris Johnson’s first visit to India as Britain’s Prime Minister — twice postponed because of Covid — is at last scheduled on the anvil for April 21-22
“My visit to India”, he said, “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.”
Johnson is perceived to be arriving in India with a relatively weak hand, keen to increase British exports to India and to induce Indian companies to invest in the UK. The British government, however, visualises India to be in vulnerable circumstances, with China posing a military threat its borders, and the Indian economy having gone pear shaped, including exports struggling to move upwards.
Johnson’s office at 10 Downing Street stated: “He will use the visit to drive progress in the Free Trade Agreement negotiations launched earlier this year – a deal with India is predicted to boost our total trade by up to 28 billion pounds annually by 2035 and increase incomes across the UK by up to 3 billion pounds.”
The PM office indicated: “Investment from Indian companies already supports 95,000 jobs across the UK.” Much of such employment is generated by the Tatas, among who interests are Tata Steel, Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).
Johnson will be heading for Modi’s home state of Gujarat first. Here on April 21, he will “meet with the leading businesses”.
On April 22, his talks with Modi in Delhi will cover bilateral cooperation in defence and diplomatic affairs.
As for the political aspect of diplomatic ties, there has rarely been a convergence between the two country in the 75 years since Indian independence from Britain. Presently, the UK is gung-ho about siding militarily with Ukraine in its face-off with Russia, whereas India, despite unprecedentedly tilting towards the US under Modi, has reverted to Jawaharlal Nehru’s policy of non-alignment on Russia-US conflicts, which the hostilities in Ukraine are seen to be.