British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has decided to shorten his trip to New Delhi later this month in view of the severity of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in India.
The visit, due on April 26, is significant for the UK as it is eyeing a new bilateral trade deal with India, following its exit from the European Union.
India is the second-largest investor in the UK, after the US. Post-Brexit, the UK is focused on the Indo-Pacific region for its economy and security.
Johnson had earlier indicated that apart from New Delhi, he wanted to visit Mumbai, Pune, Bengaluru and Chennai.
Official sources on Wednesday however said that Johnson is reducing the length of his trip to India. A spokesperson in London told media that the decision to shorten the visit was taken after due consultations with the Indian government.
Incidentally, India has placed a temporary hold on all exports of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine after the rise in Covid-19 infection cases at home. The suspension of exports is expected to affect supplies to around 190 countries including the UK.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is a two-dose vaccine jointly developed by the Oxford Vaccine Group and pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to target the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Serum Institute of India's Covid-19 vaccine, called Covishield, is the local version of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in India. However, as the second wave of the pandemic has hit India badly, the domestic demand for the vaccine has increased hugely.
The coronavirus pandemic management and vaccine distribution will be part of Prime Minister Johnson's visit, ministry of external affairs sources in New Delhi said.