‘Roadmap 2030’ priority for Boris Johnson’s shortened India visit

‘Roadmap 2030’ priority for Boris Johnson’s shortened India visit
Boris Johnson’s visit to India is historic as the first major bilateral visit for the UK Prime Minister outside Europe since the UK general election in December 2019 and the conclusion of the Brexit transition period at the end of December 2020Reuters

With the much-anticipated visit of the UK Prime Minister cut short due to the Covid-10 crisis, agreeing a roadmap towards a free trade agreement (FTA) is topmost on the agenda.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been forced to reduce the length of his planned visit to India at the end of the month amid a second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic sweeping across the country.

Instead of an original plan for a schedule over a number of days, he is now due to arrive in New Delhi on April 25 and the bulk of the programme will take place on April 26. Given the shorter time-span, topmost on the agenda would be agreeing a ‘Roadmap 2030’ for re-energised India-UK relations across trade and investment and climate action and an effective strategy to pave the way for a free trade agreement (FTA) between the two sides in the future.

Talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior government ministers is expected to revolve around this goal.

“The visit of PM Johnson is expected to positively transform the partnership across the wide-spectrum of issues and areas relating to defence and security, the Indo-Pacific and Western Indian Ocean Region (WIOR), trade and investments, healthcare, climate change and people-to-people connect,” the High Commission of India in London said in its projection for the visit.

“India and UK are set to agree on a ‘Roadmap 2030’ for future relations. The 2030 vision is for revitalised and dynamic connect between people; re-energised trade, investment and technological collaboration; enhanced defence and security cooperation and closer engagement on regional issues – Including the Indian Ocean Region and the Indo-Pacific. The India-UK Partnership in Climate Action, clean energy and health care is geared for mutual benefit and a better world,” it notes.

Historic visit

The visit, previously postponed from a planned Republic Day tour in January amid the UK’s escalating Covid-19 crisis at the time, is quite historic as the first major bilateral visit for Johnson outside Europe since the UK general election in December 2019 and the conclusion of the Brexit transition period at the end of December 2020.

As part of the UK’s post-Brexit Global Britain engagement as a non-member of the European Union (EU), all eyes have been on a proposed Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP) with India which will pave the way for a full-fledged FTA in the future. The ETP was expected to take firm shape during Johnson’s visit this month but it remains to be seen how that progresses given the scaled-back programme.

“India-UK successful collaboration in the Covid-19 mitigation efforts over the last year has emerged as the silver lining in the bilateral relationship. Building upon the success achieved in the joint development, manufacture and distribution of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, the visit will provide an opportunity to further consolidate the India-UK joint partnership in addressing future pandemics through health infrastructure development, joint investment in research and development of vaccines, swifter exchanges of healthcare professionals and strengthening existing institutional links/partnerships in the health sector,” the Indian High Commission notes.

A fair visa system has always been the crux of any trade negotiation for India, with the UK side keen on cuts in tariffs for wider Indian market access for products such as Scotch whisky.
A fair visa system has always been the crux of any trade negotiation for India, with the UK side keen on cuts in tariffs for wider Indian market access for products such as Scotch whisky.Reuters

Moving along the dialogue

The last bilateral visit by a British Prime Minister to India took place in November 2016 when Theresa May met Prime Minister Modi for talks, a visit widely seen as unsuccessful largely from the point of view of Britain’s perceived unwelcome visa stance towards Indian students and professionals at the time.

Johnson’s visit is by contrast expected to deliver a "streamlined and liberalised regime" for the flow of people between the two countries. A fair visa system has always been the crux of any trade negotiation for India, with the UK side keen on cuts in tariffs for wider Indian market access for products such as Scotch whisky.

Downing Street is yet to reveal a detailed itinerary of the UK PM's agenda but confirmed that it will include a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi and high-level ministerial as well as business talks.

Boris Johnson’s spokesperson said: “This programme will be focused on high level discussions with the Indian government and Indian business leaders. We’ll set out more details in due course, but the visit will include a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi.

"As with all the Prime Minister’s visits, his trip to India will prioritise the safety of those involved. All elements of the visit will be Covid secure.”

Indians in the UK welcome Prime minister Modi during his visit in 2019. Johnson’s upcoming visit is expected to deliver a "streamlined and liberalised regime" for the flow of people between the two countries.
Indians in the UK welcome Prime minister Modi during his visit in 2019. Johnson’s upcoming visit is expected to deliver a "streamlined and liberalised regime" for the flow of people between the two countries.Reuters

Once-in-a-generation review

The visit comes in the wake of the UK’s foreign policy vision for an Indo-Pacific tilt as part of its “once-in-a-generation” Integrated Review released last month, with the India visit touted as the central plank of that strategy during its launch in the House of Commons.

“I am delighted to announce that I will visit India next month to strengthen our friendship with the world’s biggest democracy,” Johnson said in a House of Commons statement on March 16.

British High Commissioner to India, Alex Ellis, recently said that the visit promises to be a very significant marking of a new kind of relationship across trade and investment as well as the exchange of people and ideas between India and the UK. The envoy, who is in charge of finalising the prime ministerial visit agenda, highlighted several pillars of focus for the bilateral engagement, covering areas such as defence and security and climate action and healthcare, including cooperation in the area of Covid-19 vaccines.

“This is the first major bilateral visit that this Prime Minister would have made to any country outside the UK, that says quite a lot about the significance of the India relationship which he seeks,” Ellis said last month, during a seminar organised by the London-based think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

“It is very exciting that he is coming. He was planning to come in January, but the Covid situation in the UK put paid to that, but he is very keen to come and we are really looking forward to what we hope will be a very significant marking of a new kind of relationship,” he said.

While the Covid situation has once again played havoc with the itinerary, officials are hopeful that the visit can go ahead at least in its much shorter version.

Related Stories

No stories found.

Podcast

No stories found.

Defence bulletin

No stories found.

The power of the quad

No stories found.

Videos

No stories found.

Women Leaders

No stories found.
India Global Business
www.indiaglobalbusiness.com