NEW DELHI: On a two-day maiden visit to India, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday said that the relations between India and the UK are at an all-time high and stressed that the partnership “brings security and prosperity for our people”.
On the second day of his visit, Johnson was received at the Rashtrapati Bhavan by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and was accorded a ceremonial welcome and guard of honour.
Speaking to media persons, he said, “I don’t think that things have ever been as strong or as good between us (India-UK) as they are now.” He later visited Raj Ghat and paid tribute to Mahatma Gandhi.
On Friday, the UK prime minister will hold bilateral talks with PM Modi where he is expected to discuss next-generation defence and security collaboration across the five domains – land, sea, air, space and cyber, as per his office, 10 Downing Street.
The discussions of defence collaboration will include support for “new Indian-designed and built fighter jets, offering the best of British know-how on building battle-winning aircraft”, it said in a statement.
“The UK will also seek to support India’s requirements for new technology to identify and respond to threats in the Indian Ocean,” Johnson’s office said.
The UK will issue an Open General Export Licence (OGEL) to India to support greater defence and security collaboration over the coming decade. The licence is expected to reduce bureaucracy and shorten delivery times for defence procurement. “This is our first OGEL in the Indo-Pacific region,” it said.
Underlining the importance of India-UK ties, Johnson stated, “The UK’s partnership with India is a beacon in these stormy seas. Our collaboration on the issues that matter to both our countries, from climate change to energy security and defence, is of vital importance as we look to the future.”
In their meetings in New Delhi, the two sides will also discuss new cooperation on clean and renewable energy. India and the UK are going to launch a virtual Hydrogen Science and Innovation hub to accelerate affordable green hydrogen, as well as new funding for the Green Grids Initiative announced at COP26, and also collaborate on joint work on the electrification of public transport across India.
In a statement on Thursday, the office of the UK PM said that businesses in the two countries will “confirm more than £1 billion in new investments and export deals today in areas from software engineering to health”, adding that the investments will generate 11,000 jobs across the UK.
Among the major Indian companies that committed to making fresh investments or expanding their businesses in the UK are Switch Mobility, Mastek, Tech Mahindra, and Mphasis.
Johnson landed in Ahmedabad on the first day of his visit, becoming the first UK prime minister to visit Gujarat, the home state of legendary freedom movement figure Mahatma Gandhi.
He visited Mahatma Gandhi’s Sabarmati Ashram in the city, met leading businessmen, and visited British digger machine manufacturer JCB in Vadodara.
On Thursday, Johnson said that India and the UK are expected to finalise Free Trade Agreement (FTA) for which negotiations are underway.
The British PM’s visit comes at a time when parliamentarians including from his own party are preparing to launch an investigation into whether he lied to the House of Commons on alleged violation of Covid norms during lockdown parties at his residence.
Johnson has pinned high hopes on his India visit to bolster his image back home.