UK PM Boris Johnson’s visit to boost bilateral partnership in tackling future pandemics
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to India from April 25 will be an opportunity to consolidate the bilateral partnership in addressing future pandemics through health infrastructure development and joint investment in research on vaccines.
This will be Johnson’s first major visit outside Europe after the re-election of the Conservative government in the UK election in December 2019. The last visit by a UK prime minister to India was by Theresa May in November 2016.
The visit to India will be shorter than the originally planned trip of four to five days and won’t include stopovers in Mumbai and Pune because of the Covid-19 situation. The bulk of Johnson’s engagements, including his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will be on April 26.
India-UK collaboration in Covid-19 mitigation efforts over the past year emerged as the “silver lining in the bilateral relationship”, and Johnson’s visit will be an opportunity to consolidate the bilateral 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 and partnerships in the health sector, the Indian high commission in London said in a statement.
Work in this field can build on the success in the joint development, manufacture and distribution of the Oxford-Astra Zeneca vaccine, it said.
The visit is also expected to boost cooperation in areas ranging from defence and security to the Indo-Pacific and western Indian Ocean region, trade and investment and climate change.
In the post-Brexit period, the UK has been working on securing an enhanced trade partnership with India as a step towards a possible bilateral free trade agreement, the statement said. Bilateral trade and investment flows have seen steady and sustained growth in recent years, and India and the UK are committed to contribute and lead global post-pandemic recovery efforts.
“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 statement said.
In March, the UK published its once-in-a-generation integrated review of security, defence, development and foreign policy, which reflected a significant reorientation of relations to the Indo-Pacific. Johnson’s visit is expected to bring focus on dialogue and bilateral cooperation to realise the full potential of enhanced cooperation in this region, the statement said.
The UK will be hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow in November, and it has been closely associated with India’s International Solar Alliance (ISA) and Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI). Joint efforts by India and the UK in climate change mitigation will be a key priority of Johnson’s visit.
Given the significant contributions of the Indian diaspora in the UK, Johnson’s visit is also expected to deliver on further streamlining and liberalising migration and mobility of nationals between the two countries.