UK, India plan free trade deal by October

During Boris Johnson’s visit to New Delhi on Friday, the two countries agreed to strengthen defense and business relations. Johnson also stated that a bilateral free-trade agreement might be completed by October.

Johnson addressed measures to strengthen security ties with India with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during his maiden visit to the Indian capital as UK Prime Minister. India buys more than half of its military gear from Russia.

Johnson, according to India’s foreign secretary, did not exert pressure on Modi over New Delhi’s stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Harsh Vardhan Shringla told reporters, “Prime Minister Johnson conveyed his perspective on it, Prime Minister Modi shared ours – which is that the Russia-Ukraine war should end quickly.” “There was no kind of pressure at all.”

India voted against a UN resolution denouncing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and, unlike the United Kingdom and other Western nations, has not slapped penalties on Moscow, which refers to its actions in Ukraine as a “special military operation.”

Following his conversation with Modi, Johnson stated that India’s long-standing connections with Russia were unlikely to be severed.

“The Indians’ long-standing attitude toward Russia is well-known. Of course, they aren’t going to do anything about it “On the final day of his two-day tour, he told a press conference.

“However, they can see what’s going on, and there’s a growing desire to work with the UK.”

Johnson, who is facing political criticism at home for violating his own lockdown guidelines during the pandemic, said the two countries’ negotiators were on track to achieve a free-trade agreement by the end of the year.

“We’ve told our negotiators that they need to finish it before Diwali in October. By the end of the decade, our trade and investments might have doubled “he stated.

Johnson stated that the United Kingdom will support India’s ambition of developing its own fighter jets in order to lower the cost of military equipment imports. India now has fighter jets from Russia, the United Kingdom, and France.

Last year, the Indian government awarded state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd a 480-billion-rupee ($6.28 billion) deal for 83 Tejas light-combat aircraft, with deliveries beginning in 2023.

After President Joe Biden described India’s actions against Russia as “slightly wobbly,” the US offered India more defense and energy sales last month.

According to Johnson, the UK is also developing an open general export license for India in order to reduce delivery times for defense equipment. At the moment, only the European Union and the United States have such permits.

India could seek Britain’s help with electric propulsion systems for naval ships and jet propulsion systems for planes, according to Foreign Secretary Shringla. According to him, the focus was on “co-development and co-production” of defense equipment.

However, Mohan Guruswamy, head of the Centre for Policy Alternatives in New Delhi, believes that India would continue to rely on Russian military hardware, in part because it is less expensive.

“Russia’s offer to India is always, ‘Our pantry is open,’ but Britain doesn’t always give India all it needs, and what it does provide India is usually more expensive,” he explained.

A free-trade pact, Johnson added, will help India sell more grains and textiles to the United Kingdom.

In 2019, British trade with India, the world’s second-most populous country with roughly 1.4 billion people, totaled 23 billion pounds ($29.93 billion), far less than trade with some considerably smaller economies like Ireland.

As hundreds of people lined the streets and dozens of billboards portrayed his image, Johnson claimed he felt like Indian cricket sensation Sachin Tendulkar throughout his trip.

He said, “I had a great reception.” “My face was all over the place.”

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