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Eye on China, Modi & Johnson set 2030 target for India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership

At the first-ever bilateral summit between PM Modi & his UK counterpart Boris Johnson, both leaders also agreed to launch negotiations on a free trade agreement.

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his UK counterpart Boris Johnson Tuesday decided to upgrade the New Delhi-London relationship to a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Partnership’ by 2030. 

At their first bilateral summit, which was held virtually, the two leaders also vowed to finally launch negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) that will give the countries greater access to each other’s markets following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, or Brexit, which was completed last year.

The two sides signed nine Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) and agreements Tuesday, including on enhanced trade, and migration and mobility.

“Had a productive Virtual Summit with my friend UK PM @BorisJohnson. We adopted an ambitious Roadmap 2030 for elevating India-UK ties to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership,” Modi tweeted after the meeting.

He added, “We welcomed launch of an Enhanced Trade Partnership as a roadmap to a comprehensive FTA, with a target to more than double the bilateral trade by 2030. We also agreed upon several new initiatives in health, technology, energy, etc.”

Johnson, meanwhile, tweeted about the “beginning of a new era in the UK-India relationship”.

According to a joint statement issued after the summit, both the prime ministers agreed to a common vision of a “new and transformational Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between India and UK, underpinned by their shared commitment to democracy, fundamental freedoms, multilateralism and a rule based international order”. 

“They adopted an ambitious India-UK Roadmap to 2030 to steer cooperation for the next ten years,” it added.

The UK had announced in March that it is going to gradually shift its strategic focus from the EU to the Indo-Pacific as it seeks to rebalance its foreign policy with an eye on China’s growing clout.

Amid this push for deepening ties with countries in the Indo-Pacific, the UK Navy’s Carrier Strike Group 2021, led by the HMS Queen Elizabeth, will set sail for India and other countries in the region in August-September. This will be the maiden operational deployment for the group, and will involve its participation in joint exercises with the Indian military, the UK government said last month.

“The UK and India are natural defence partners, particularly in world-class research, development and training. The Carrier Strike Group’s collaboration with India will build the foundations for this relationship to flourish even further,” said UK Secretary of State for Defence Ben Wallace in April.

Under the MoU on India-UK Migration and Mobility Partnership, India will provide enhanced employment opportunities for 3,000 young Indian professionals annually, in return for India agreeing to take back any of its citizens who are living illegally in the UK, Sandeep Chakravorty joint secretary (Europe West), the Ministry of External Affairs, at a media briefing Tuesday.

The UK has also invited India to attend the G7 Summit as one of the guest countries this year. The G7 Summit is scheduled to be held in Cornwall from 11-13 June.

Also Read: India’s politics is our politics, has ripple effect: UK envoy ahead of farm laws debate there

India-UK FTA 

In an effort to integrate businesses and trade more closely after Brexit, India and the UK have been discussing a potential FTA since 2017.

Both leaders, the joint statement said, “welcomed the launch of the Enhanced Trade Partnership, and announced their intent to negotiate a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement to unlock the full potential of their trade and commercial relationship, boosting jobs, investment and exports, including consideration of an Interim Trade Agreement to deliver early gains”.

India and the UK plan to double two-way trade to $30 billion from $15.4 billion dollar at present, said Chakravorty, 

“Brexit has provided tremendous new opportunities for both countries. To seize them and unlock the true potential, the two leaders announced their intent to negotiate a comprehensive and balanced FTA, including consideration of an Interim Trade Agreement for delivering early gains. The ambition is to more than double the bilateral trade by 2030,” he added.

Apart from this, as India struggles to tame the second wave of Covid-19, New Delhi and London have decided to “expand and enhance the existing UK-India vaccines partnership”.

(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)

Also read: India needs an honest national security document for the next decade, just like Britain made


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