NEW DELHI: Britain and India yesterday agreed to step up cooperation on defense and business during a visit to New Delhi by Boris Johnson, who said a free trade deal bilateral could be concluded by October.
During his first visit to the Indian capital as British Prime Minister, Johnson discussed with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi ways to strengthen security ties with India, which buys more than half of its military equipment from India. Russia.
India’s foreign secretary, however, said Johnson had not pressured Modi over New Delhi’s stance on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. “Prime Minister Johnson shared his view on this, Prime Minister Modi shared ours – that the Russian-Ukrainian war should end immediately,” Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters. “There was no pressure of any kind.”
India abstained in a United Nations vote condemning the invasion of Ukraine and, unlike Britain and other Western countries, did not impose sanctions on Moscow, which calls Russia’s actions in Ukraine a “special military operation”.
Johnson said after meeting Modi India was unlikely to end its longstanding ties with Russia.
“The position on Russia that Indians have historically is well known. They’re not going to change that, of course it’s true,” he told a press conference on the last day of his two-day trip. “But they can see what is happening and there is a growing desire to do more with the UK.”
Johnson, who is under political pressure at home for breaking its own lockdown rules during the pandemic, said negotiators from the two countries must strike a free trade deal by the end of this year.
“We tell our negotiators to do this before Diwali in October. This could double our trade and investment by the end of the decade,” he said.
Johnson said Britain would support India’s goal of building its own fighter jets, to reduce costly imports of military equipment. He said Britain was also creating an India-specific open general export license to reduce delivery times for defense articles. Only the European Union and the United States currently have such licenses.
Johnson said a free trade deal would help India sell more rice and textiles to Britain.