NEW DELHI: Calling India an economic powerhouse, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of his visit to the country underlined the strategic partnership with New Delhi while stressing "as we face threats to our peace and prosperity from autocratic states, it is vital that democracies and friends stick together".
Johnson in the statement ahead of his visit next week emphasised India being the world's largest democracy. "India, as a major economic power and the world's largest democracy, is a highly valued strategic partner for the UK in these uncertain times," said Johnson.
Trade and security partnerships will top the agenda in the PM Modi-Johnson bilateral talks.
Listing out trade, business and defence cooperation as focus areas, Johnson stated that his visit to India will deliver on things that really matter to the people of both nations, including job creation, economic growth, energy security and defence.
The British High Commission in a statement said that Johnson will visit India to deepen the long-term partnership for peace and prosperity with a fellow leading democracy, in the face of global economic challenges and threats from autocratic states.
Notably, the visit will begin from Ahmedabad in Gujarat on April 21 (Thursday) to meet with leading businesses and discuss the UK and India's thriving commercial, trade and people links. This will be the first time a UK Prime Minister will visit Gujarat, India's fifth-largest state and the ancestral home of around half of the British-Indian population in the UK.
The UK Prime Minister will then travel to New Delhi to meet Prime Minister Modi on April 22 (Friday) where the leaders will hold in-depth talks on the UK and India's strategic defence, diplomatic and economic partnership, aimed at bolstering close partnership and stepping up security co-operation in the Indo-Pacific.
Moreover, in Gujarat, Johnson is expected to announce a major investment in key industries in both the UK and India, boosting jobs and growth at home, as well as new collaboration on cutting-edge science, health and technology.
According to the statement, he will use the visit to drive progress in the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations launched earlier this year as a deal with India is predicted to boost UK's total trade by up to 28 billion pounds annually by 2035 and increase incomes across the UK by up to 3 billion pounds.
Last year, Johnson and PM Modi agreed on a UK-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, announcing more than 530 million pounds in investment into the UK and committing to a deeper bilateral relationship across trade, health, climate, defence and security, and connecting our people.
India was also identified as a priority relationship for the UK in the 2021 Integrated Review and was invited by the UK as a guest to last year's G7 in Carbis Bay.
The UK is leveraging post-Brexit trade opportunities with India's growing economy to drive down prices in key commodities for consumers, open opportunities for UK businesses in areas like green tech and services, and create high-wage, high-skill jobs, said the British High Commission.
Investment from Indian companies already supports 95,000 jobs across the UK, which is expected to be boosted by upcoming announcements and a future free trade deal, it added. Notably, Johnson's visit to India was cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.