NEW DELHI: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to make a slew of investment announcements to boost bilateral trade and ties when he visits India on Thursday and Friday amid fears of another wave of COVID-19 in view of rising cases of COVID-19.
Johnson will land in Ahmedabad, Gujarat on April 21 where he will meet business leaders and announce a slew of investments in the areas of science, health and technology, and hold bilateral talks in Delhi the next day.
His visit comes at a time when the United Kingdom is trying to pressurise India for bringing down its consumption of Russian oil and defence supplies over the invasion of Ukraine.
Johnson’s office, 10 Downing Street, has listed job creation, energy security and defence collaboration as the key priority areas of his India visit. The two countries are working on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to boost bilateral business.
“After Brexit (Britain’s exit from the EU), the UK has to start a lot of things afresh. One of their priorities seems to be a trade agreement. Their trade with Europe has been disrupted. There are several duties imposed. India is a large market. It can be a good market for them for a wide range of alcohol products including alcohol products,” Pinak Chakrvarty, former Secretary in the MEA, told The New Indian.
On being asked about the possibility of India importing defence goods from the UK, he said, “Yeah, that is possible. Defence is more likely to be on an Atma Nirbhar (self-reliant) basis. So we will ask them (UK) to manufacture in India.”
Highlighting the challenges the UK faces after Brexit, Anuraag Sunder, former Director of PwC’s Insurance practice in South Asia, said, “The UK of 2020 is not the same as the UK of 1970 or 1990. The UK and India have enjoyed deep commercial relationships over a long period of time.”
Ashutosh Shastri, who runs a London-based strategic energy consulting firm, has high hopes from the visit in the area of energy security.
“Britain has announced its new energy strategy against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. There are a number of themes in this new strategy that are aimed at shared prosperity between India and Britain,” he said.
“Of particular interest will be the opportunity for an India-based global manufacturing platform in defence and energy industries. A good engineering base and access to engineering talent is something that both countries share and that can be a compelling proposition, Shastri observed, adding that “much can be accomplished” from the visit.
Experts said that India and the UK could explore more avenues to boost agricultural trade between the two countries.
“We can think of the maximum residue limit (MRL) issue. This MRL issue should be very practical. India’s agri products were rejected by the UK several times. European norms are much more stringent than the US,” noted Rajiv Kumar, Executive Director, Rice Exporters Association of India.
He said exporters could send non-Basmati rice in more quantities to the UK if the MRL issue is resolved. “Not everyone consumes or can afford Basmati rice,” he said.