Updated: April 23, 2022 8:02:07 am
Underlining that India and UK are together and confronting their “shared anxieties” on “autocratic coercion” around the world, visiting British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Friday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has “intervened several times” with Russian President Vladimir Putin “to ask him what on earth he thinks he is doing, and where he thinks this is going”. He said Indians want “peace” and the “Russians out (of Ukraine)”.
He also announced the re-opening of the British embassy in Kyiv, which he had visited earlier this month.
Johnson, who spoke at a press conference organised by the British High Commission after the bilateral meeting with Modi, steered clear of criticising India for not condemning Russia’s actions.
Responding to questions, he said, “I think you have to recognise that Indians have actually, and Narendra Modi in particular, have come out… very strong in their language about what has happened in Bucha. And talking to PM Narendra Modi today, it’s clear that he has already intervened several times, and I am sure this is no secret from our Indian friends… he has intervened several times with Vladimir Putin to ask him what on earth he thinks he is doing, and where he thinks this is going. And what the Indians want is peace and they want the Russians out. And I totally agree with that.”
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He said India has a “historic relationship with Russia” which “everybody understands and respects that goes back decades”.
“But what was so interesting about the last couple of days has been the way in which Britain and India are being really encouraged, obliged, by the pressure of events today, as I say, autocratic coercion — whether it’s in Russia or China — wherever to do more together”.
He, however, did not mention Ukraine or Russia in the press statements after the talks, with Modi by his side. He merely said, “It was great to see you at the G7. But since then, the threats of autocratic coercion have grown even further.”
Interacting with the media later, he chose New Delhi to announce the re-opening of the British embassy in Kyiv. “Next week, we will reopen our embassy in Ukraine’s capital city. I want to pay tribute to those British diplomats who remained elsewhere in the region throughout this period.”
“The United Kingdom and our allies will not watch passively as Putin carries on this onslaught and what I think we have seen here in New Delhi is, one of the world’s oldest democracies, and the world’s largest democracy, sticking together and confronting our shared anxieties about autocracies and autocratic coercion around the world and acting together to make our countries safer and more prosperous.”
“Our new and expanded defence and security partnership will enable India to strengthen its own domestic defence industry as well as protecting vital shared interests in the Indo Pacific,” he said.
On Ukraine, Modi, in his statement after the bilateral meeting, called for “immediate ceasefire” — a different formulation than the earlier language of “immediate cessation of hostilities and violence”. As in the past, he advocated “dialogue and diplomacy”, while mentioning the principle of “respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty”.
“We stressed on dialogue and diplomacy for an immediate ceasefire and resolution of the problem in Ukraine. We also reiterated the importance of respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries,” he said.
Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said there was “no pressure” (dabaav) from the UK during the talks on the Russia-Ukraine crisis. He said that the Prime Minister expressed “deep concern” over the situation and the “mounting humanitarian crisis” in Ukraine. Johnson, he said, provided “his perspective” and there was a “useful exchange of views” in “convivial terms”.
In a bid to deepen defence cooperation, the UK will provide support for new Indian-designed and built fighter jets, offering the best of British know-how on building battle-winning aircraft.
The UK will also seek to support India’s requirements for new technology to identify and respond to threats in the Indian Ocean.
Johnson said that they discussed next-generation defence and security collaboration across the five domains – land, sea, air, space and cyber.
“We have agreed to work together to meet new threats across land, sea, air, space, and cyber including partnering on new fighter jet technology, maritime technologies to detect and respond to threats in the oceans,” he said.
Modi said, “We have also agreed to enhance cooperation in the defence sector. We welcome the UK’s support for ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ in all sectors of manufacturing, technology, design and development in the defence sector.”
The British government also said that “to support greater defence and security collaboration with India over the coming decade, the UK will issue an Open General Export Licence (OGEL) to India, reducing bureaucracy and shortening delivery times for defence procurement. This is our first OGEL in the Indo-Pacific region.”
On Khalistani groups and concerns about anti-India activities in the UK, Johnson said they have decided to form a new “anti-extremist task force”.
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