UK PM Boris Johnson's India visit begins today, will Ukraine be discussed?

UK PM Boris Johnson's India visit begins today, will Ukraine be discussed?

Johnson and Modi will hold extensive talks in Delhi on Friday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's two-day visit to India from today is expected to give a fresh push to the proposed free trade agreement, boost cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and enhance defence ties, and he will not lecture New Delhi on how to respond to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, people familiar with the development said.

A major focus of Johnson's talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be on the situation in the Indo-Pacific as the UK is strongly opposed to any kind of coercion in the region, they said on Wednesday.

They said the UK was ready to extend its cooperation in realising Modi's vision of making India a hub for defence manufacturing and that the country was ready for the transfer of technologies for joint production of military hardware.

On the India-UK free trade agreement, they said Johnson's visit will be a staging point for the next round of negotiations that are slated for next week.

The British prime minister is scheduled to arrive in Ahmedabad on Thursday morning on a two-day visit to India. 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 cited comments by British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss during her visit to India last month, saying Johnson is also going to follow the same line and will not 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, adding longer-term consequences of the Russian attack could be discussed.

"Both sides understand each other's position," the person said.

The talks between Modi and Johnson are expected to further encourage the negotiations by the two sides for an ambitious free trade agreement between the two countries, the people said.

Both sides are making efforts to conclude the negotiations by end of this year.

They said issues relating to market access for apples, medical devices, shrimps and legal services have been almost resolved, describing it as good signs for the next stage of discussions.

The aim is to have something long-lasting for the next 25 years, said one of the people 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 focus on further cementing the ties.

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The discussions on ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific will be "central" to 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 the visa is around 40 per cent.

Asked about Vijay Mallya's extradition, the people said it is a legal matter.

On alleged activities in the UK 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 India-UK relationship 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 ties in the key areas of trade and economy, defence and security, climate change and people-to-people connections, among others.

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