UK PM Johnson to be chief visitor at Republic Day celebrations

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 15

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has accepted India’s invitation to be the chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations on January 26, UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said at a media conference after talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar here on Monday.

A separate announcement from 10, Downing Street, had Johnson describing India as a key player in the Indo-Pacific region and an increasingly indispensable partner for the UK in economy, security and climate change.

Johnson will be the second UK Prime Minister to attend the Republic Day celebrations after John Major in 1993.

Raab said both sides had also agreed on key elements of a 10-year India-UK roadmap which may be unveiled during Johnson’s visit. He will discuss the roadmap on Wednesday when he calls on PM Modi. 

Raab will also discuss with Modi closer collaboration on an Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP) and working together to end the coronavirus crisis and tackle climate change. The UK Foreign Office described the ETP as a forerunner to a FTA. Bilateral trade stands at almost £ 24 billion and grew by 11 per cent in the last fiscal.

At the media conference with Jaishankar, Raab said he had extended Johnson’s invitation to PM Modi to attend the next G-7 summit to be hosted by the UK next year.

Jaishankar, hoped Raab’s visit would not only be a good augury for bilateral ties but an early return to life “as we know it’’.

The four hours of discussions between the two Foreign Ministers focused on taking ties to a higher level and giving policy directions to broaden ties in five areas: connecting people, trade and prosperity, defence and security, climate and health, said Jaishankar.

During the year, Jaishankar and Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla have been video conferencing with their counterparts from the UK and some western countries about the changes brought by Covid and their economic implications. “Today we exchanged notes and updated each other on the issue,” he added.

All through the media interaction, Raab and Jaishankar did not mention China though they spoke of defence and security as one of the core areas of talks to tackle maritime piracy, emerging challenges like space and cyber security, and making 5G more secure.

Though the UK will be sending the HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group to the Indian Ocean next year, Jaishankar pointed out that both countries cannot have an identical vision of the Asia Pacific.

“India has its vision of Asia Pacific but a lot of other countries also do and there are big overlaps. It is a matter of satisfaction there is today a growing recognition and acceptance of the idea of Indo-Pacific,” he said.

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