British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's two-day visit to India from Thursday is aimed at ramping up the overall ties between the two countries, especially in the areas of defence and security and trade, and he will not lecture India on how to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, people familiar with the development said on Wednesday.
They said a major focus of Johnson's talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be on the situation in the Indo-Pacific as the United Kingdom is strongly opposed to any kind of coercion in the region. The people said the UK is ready to extend its cooperation in realising Modi's vision of making India a hub for defence manufacturing and for the transfer of technologies for joint production of military hardware.
The British prime minister is scheduled to arrive in Ahmedabad on Thursday morning. After a series of engagements in Gujarat throughout the day, he will leave for Delhi in the evening. Johnson and Modi will hold extensive talks in Delhi on Friday. On the Ukraine crisis, the people said Johnson is not going to lecture India on its response to the Russian invasion and that he will set out the UK's perspective on it and listen to New Delhi's views. The UK is not in the business of telling other countries what to do, said one of the people cited above, adding that the long-term consequences of the Russian attack could be discussed.
The talks between PM Modi and Johnson are expected to further encourage the negotiations by the two sides for an ambitious free-trade agreement between them, the people said. Both sides are making efforts to conclude the negotiations by the end of the year. The aim is to have something long-lasting for the next 25 years, said one of the people cited above, while emphasising the importance the UK attaches to its ties with India. The people said though Johnson's visit is taking place in the backdrop of the crisis in Ukraine, the discussions will focus on a wide range of key bilateral issues with a thrust on further cementing the ties. The discussions on ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific will be "central" to the talks between the two prime ministers.
On cooperation in defence production, the people said the UK is ready for technology transfer to ensure that Modi's vision of indigenisation in defence manufacturing is realised. They said the "people-to-people" connection is a "living bridge" between the two sides and that India remains the number one country globally for the UK in terms of issuance of visas to skilled immigrants.
They said the share of skilled Indians getting visas is around 40 per cent. Asked about fugitive liquor baron Vijay Mallya's extradition, the people cited above said it is a legal matter. On alleged activities on British soil by certain pro-Khalistani elements, they said the UK is for countering extremism and checking forces that are on the wrong side of the law.
The relationship between the two countries was elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership during the India-UK virtual summit held between Modi and Johnson in May last year. At the summit, the two sides adopted a 10-year roadmap to expand the bilateral ties in the key areas of trade and economy, defence and security, climate change and people-to-people connections, among others.