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Why is Boris Johnson in India? PM’s visit explained - and what is India’s stance on Russia war in Ukraine?

The Prime Minister will visit Gujarat and New Delhi this week and is expected to secure major new investment deals, supporting UK businesses, jobs and growth

Prime MinisterBoris Johnson is visiting India this week in a bid to strengthen security ties with the country.

The long-awaited trip was originally meant to take place in January last year but had to be cancelled as the second coronavirus wave swept the UK.

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A trip in April last year was also cancelled after India was added to the UK’s red list, forcing Mr Johnson to instead speak to the Indian prime minister online.

This week will mark the PM’s first major visit to India after the previous visits were postponed and will focus on “the things that really matter” to the people of both countries, including jobs and growth.

The PM’s India visit will focus on boosting defence, security and trade (Photo: Getty Images)

What is the purpose of the PM’s visit to India?

Mr Johnson’s visit to India is expected to secure major new investment deals to support UK businesses, jobs and growth.

He is due to meet his counterpart Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Friday (22 April), with talks to be focused on boosting defence, security and trade.

The trip will begin in Ahmedabad in Gujarat on Thursday (21 April) where the PM will meet with leading businesses to discuss the UK and India’s commercial, trade and people links.

No 10 has said the visit marks the first time a British prime minister has visited the state of Gujarat, which is an ancestral home to around half of the British-Indian population in the UK.

Mr Johnson is expected to announce major investment in key infrastructure in both the UK and India, as well as new collaboration on science, health and technology.

From there, he will then visit New Delhi to meet with Prime Minister Modi on Friday. The leaders are set to hold in-depth talks on the UK and India’s strategic defence, diplomatic and economic partnership, aimed at bolstering the UK’s close partnership and stepping up security co-operation in the Indo-Pacific.

The meeting will cover the UK-India free trade agreement that is currently being negotiated, which it is claimed will boost trade between the two countries by up to £28 billion annually by 2035, and increase incomes across the UK by up to £3 billion.

Speaking ahead of his visit, Mr Johnson said: “As we face threats to our peace and prosperity from autocratic states, it is vital that democracies and friends stick together.

“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.

“My visit to India will deliver on the things that really matter to the people of both our nations – from job creation and economic growth, to energy security and defence.”

Last year, Mr Johnson and Mr Modi agreed a UK-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, announcing more than £530m in investment into the UK and committing to a deeper relationship across trade, health, climate, defence and security.

India was 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.

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.

What is India’s stance on the Russia-Ukraine war?

In New Delhi, Mr Johnson is expected to encourage Prime Minister Modi to loosen ties with Vladimir Putin’s Russia, and persuade India to reduce its reliance on Moscow since Russia invaded Ukraine.

Mr Johnson has vowed to press for a reduction of fossil fuels from Russia and will raise concerns that India is becoming increasingly reliant on Moscow’s fuel.

He said: “I will make the argument that everybody needs to move away from dependence on Putin’s hydrocarbons.”

No 10 has been cautious to stress the PM will not seek to “lecture” Mr Modi, despite concerns that the Indian leader has not been strong enough in condemning the war.

India has not directly criticised Russia since it invaded Ukraine on 24 February and did not condemn the invasion at a United Nations vote on the issue.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We will be looking to secure new partnerships on trade, technology and defence on the visit that will include significant new investment on jobs announcements and science partnership.

“In Delhi we’ll be announcing a new collaboration on defence and green energy.”