The British Prime Minister in India, trade and Ukraine on the menu

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson landed in India on Thursday for a two-day visit, centered on trade but also strategic talks, but with little chance of overcoming his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi’s reluctance to back Western action against the Russian invasion in Ukraine.

Mr Johnson has arrived in the western state of Gujarat, Mr Modi’s home state, where he is due to meet business leaders and take a cultural tour of the historic city of Ahmedabad, half of which the British-Indian population of Britain originated.

Mr Johnson’s visit began with a tour of the Sabarmati Ashram north of Ahmedabad, once the residence of Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi.

There, the British Prime Minister was asked to sit cross-legged to spin on a wooden spinning wheel. A tool presented by Gandhi as the symbol of resistance against British colonial rule in India.

Boris Johnson will then travel to New Delhi to meet Mr Modi there on Friday, away from the British Parliament where a vote must decide whether or not to refer to a committee responsible for determining whether or not the Conservative leader knowingly misled Parliament in his explanations of the “party gate”.

– “Incredible opportunities” –

This trip, postponed twice because of the pandemic, was briefly questioned this week because of this vote, with the opposition calling for his resignation.

But according to British sources, this meeting was considered too important to be postponed again.

Downing Street has indicated that it will seal bilateral investment agreements worth more than a billion pounds (1.2 billion euros) allowing the creation of 11,000 jobs in the United Kingdom.

“We are focused today on incredible opportunities to deepen our partnership,” Johnson told reporters while visiting a factory in Gujurat on Thursday afternoon.

This journey aims to lead to new partnerships in the areas of defence, artificial intelligence and green energy, as well as investment agreements in areas such as robotics, electric vehicles and satellite launches.

London acknowledges, however, that there is still a long way to go before concluding a post-Brexit trade agreement with the government of Mr. Modi, which wants more visas granted to Indians to work or study in the United Kingdom.

– “reflect reality” –

As for the situation in Ukraine, the two countries have adopted very different positions: London is stepping up economic sanctions against Russia and is on the front line of arms aid to kyiv.

But India, dependent on imports of energy, agricultural products and Russian armaments, refrained from openly condemning the invasion and joining in the votes to that effect at the UN.

“India and Russia historically have a very different relationship perhaps than that maintained by Russia and the United Kingdom over the past two decades,” Johnson said on Thursday when asked about the issue.

“We have to reflect this reality, but obviously I will talk to Narendra Modi about it,” he assured.

Mr Modi also shrugged off appeals from US President Joe Biden.

Mr Johnson is expected to highlight the benefits of India’s faster transition to renewables. “Our two countries are excessively dependent on foreign hydrocarbons. And we must move away from it together”, underlined the British Prime Minister.

“Partnerships in hydrogen, electric vehicles, offshore wind and all means of reducing the cost of energy” are among the points under discussion, he added.

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The British Prime Minister in India, trade and Ukraine on the menu


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