UK Ties With India Beacon In Stormy Seas, Says Johnson; Modi Bats For FTA

| Updated: 22 April, 2022 3:14 pm IST
PM Narendra Modi with UK PM Boris Johnson in New Delhi.

NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his UK counterpart Boris Johnson sought a dialogue to mitigate the Ukraine crisis even as the two leaders in their first-ever joint address skipped any hawkish stance on Russia, indicating the respect for each other’s sovereignty and the growing ties the two nations have enjoyed over the last few years.

Modi and Johnson met hours after India held a ceremonial reception for the visiting UK premier and Union minister of state for electronics and information technology (MEITY) Rajeev Chandrasekhar received him at the Delhi airport.

While India had slammed the Bucha killings and condemned the attacks on Ukraine, New Delhi has not supported any sanctions on the Kremlin while also importing oil from Russia, a strategic partner for arms and defence purchases including Kalashnikovs and attack helicopters.

“We have emphasized dialogue and diplomacy to quickly resolve the Ukraine crisis. We hold respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty of every state,” Modi remarked.

“UK’s partnership with India is a beacon in stormy seas as the world faces growing threats from autocratic states which seek to undermine democracy, choke off fair trade and trample on sovereignty,” Johnson said.

In his address, Modi also put a spotlight on the vexed issue of the return of the Taliban following the US withdrawal of troops last year, saying India stands for a peaceful, stable and secure establishment in Kabul.

He though warned that Afghanistan’s soil must not be misused for exporting terror to the South Asian countries.

A large part of the address by the two prime ministers dwelt upon the Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

“We aim to have a new FTA by Diwali… We appreciate the tariffs being dropped by India on certain goods and commodities and in return, we too are dropping some tariffs we levy. We also look forward to the close cooperation shared between the UK’s NHS and India’s health services,” Johnson promised.

Modi too affirmed India’s interest and by this year the Free Trade Agreement will be finalised.

“We welcome the support the UK extended in the areas of defence cooperation, manufacturing and technology, design and development,” said Modi.

Modi heaped praises on his friendship with Johnson, who has been on a visit to India multiple times in the past during his first marriage to Marina Wheeler, who is the niece of celebrated late writer Khushwant Singh.

“As the PM, this is his maiden visit but as an old friend of India, he knows and understands India very well. PM Johnson played a significant role to strengthen the ties between India and the UK,” Modi remarked.

The duo sought to focus on collaboration on climate and energy. “We expressed our commitment to fulfilling promises made during the last COP 26,” Modi said.

India has invited the UK to the National Hydrogen Mission and the two sides are in talks on the national infrastructure pipeline, Modi said.

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