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Boris Johnson begins visit to India today, deals worth £1 billion on table

On Friday, Johnson will hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on economic, security and defence collaborations. He is expected to announce commercial agreements, hailing a new era in trade, investment and technology partnership between the two countries.

Written by Shubhajit Roy | New Delhi |
Updated: April 21, 2022 7:15:16 am
India Uk trade, Boris Johnson, Narendra Modi, Ahmedabad, Russia Ukraine, Russia Ukraine Crisis, Russia-Ukraine tension, Ukraine, Ukraine Crisis, India UK Relations, Indian Express, India news, current affairs, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India NewsPrime Minister Narendra Modi with his English counterpart Boris Johnson (PTI/File)

As British Prime Minister Boris Johnson lands in Ahmedabad on Thursday for the start of a two-day visit to India, UK and Indian businesses are set to announce investments and export deals worth over £1 billion, in areas from software engineering to health.

Science and tech collaborations, including a digital health partnership and a joint investment fund for Indian deep-tech and AI start-ups, supported by both the governments; new AI scholarships for Indian students jointly funded by the UK government’s Chevening programme and India’s Adani Group; and a £6 million investment by AI healthcare specialists Qure.ai to open a centre of excellence in the UK are set to be announced.

On Friday, Johnson will hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on economic, security and defence collaborations. He is expected to announce commercial agreements, hailing a new era in trade, investment and technology partnership between the two countries.

“The Prime Minister will use his visit to India to boost our collaboration with one of the world’s fastest growing economies, slashing trade barriers for UK businesses and driving jobs and growth at home,” the British High Commission said in a statement.

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The £1 billion in new investments and export deals, expected to create about 11,000 new jobs in UK, will include:

🔴A new Switch Mobility electric bus R&D centre in the UK, and the opening of its Asia Pacific Headquarters in Chennai, generating over 1,000 jobs.

🔴Investment from leading Indian manufacturer Bharat Forge and electric truck maker Tevva Motors to expand to a new site and create 500 jobs.

🔴£79 million investment by Indian software company Mastek to create 1,600 jobs over the next three years all over the UK.

🔴Business consultancy FirstSource to open new offices in South Wales, the Midlands and cities in the North-East and North-West.

🔴Export deal by Hertfordshire-based firm Smith & Nephew to sell robotic surgical systems in India, and Northamptonshire business Scott Bader opening a new resins factory to supply top renewable energy companies in south-east Asia.

The High Commission said Johnson will also welcome OneWeb signing a contract for satellite launches with New Space India Limited, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation. OneWeb is a UK-based satellite communications company which the government has invested in.

“As I arrive in India today, I see vast possibilities for what our two great nations can achieve together. From next-generation 5G telecoms and AI to new partnerships in health research and renewable energy — the UK and India are leading the world… Our powerhouse partnership is delivering jobs, growth and opportunities for our people, and it will only go from strength-to-strength in the coming years,” Johnson said in a statement.

In Gujarat, he is set to visit a factory being set up by a top British firm and a biotechnology university working in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh.

The British High Commission said Johnson will use the visit to “drive progress in negotiations on the landmark UK-India free trade agreement, which is expected to help double our trade and investment by 2030”. Negotiating teams will hold their third round of formal talks in India next week, it said.

“Work is already progressing on cutting red tape for businesses following the UK-India Enhanced Trade Partnership launched by both Prime Ministers last year, and today our governments will announce new measures to make it easier to export UK-made medical devices to India,” it said. This will support UK jobs and create opportunities for British med-tech companies like Redcar-based Micropore Technologies to sell their life-saving products in India, an import market worth £2.4 billion.

Officials said Johnson’s visit will build on India being invited as a guest country for the G7 Summit hosted by the UK in June last year. Modi had addressed the G7 summit at Carbis Bay virtually as his travel plans were impacted by the pandemic. The two leaders met in person later in the year, when Modi travelled to Glasgow for the COP26 summit in November. Johnson’s planned visits to India in 2021 were cancelled twice due to the pandemic situation in either country.

It is expected that the Russia-Ukraine conflict will feature prominently during the bilateral talks between the two leaders on Friday. In London, Downing Street stressed that the UK would not look to “lecture” India over its neutral stance in the United Nations or its decision to hike Russian oil imports.

“This visit is not framed on the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Obviously, that is really important but this is a visit we have planned for a very long time. India is an incredibly important partner,” Johnson’s official spokesperson, who is accompanying him to India, told reporters.

“The Prime Minister has been wanting to make this trip to build our partnership across trade, investment, security and defence, and green energy. We will be discussing all those issues and it is expected that Russia-Ukraine will be on the agenda. But we won’t be seeking to sort of lecture India or try and persuade them into one position or another. We will be seeking to work together constructively as an important international partner,” the spokesperson said.

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