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UK PM visits Sabarmati Ashram, JCB unit; says understand Delhi’s ties with Moscow

Johnson's visit to India comes at a time when India has taken a neutral stand on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and amid the criticism by western countries, especially the US, that India was not taking a clear stance against Russia.

By: Express News Service | Halol |
Updated: April 22, 2022 8:26:22 am
UK PM Boris Johnson at Sabarmati during his visit to Gujarat. (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrived in Ahmedabad on Thursday as part of his two-day India trip and visited the famous Sabarmati Ashram and met industrialist Gautam Adani, a day before his formal talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on key international and bilateral issues in New Delhi.

This is the first visit of a UK Prime Minister to Gujarat.

Ahead of Johnson’s visit, the British High Commission said UK and Indian businesses will confirm more than £1 billion in new investments and export deals in areas from software engineering to health, creating almost 11,000 jobs across the UK.

Johnson’s engagements in Gujarat also included visits to a manufacturing facility of JCB, a British construction equipment firm in the Panchmahal district, and the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar.

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On Friday, he is scheduled to hold talks with Modi.

Asked about India’s position on Ukraine, Johnson said his country has already raised the Ukraine war issue with Modi at a diplomatic level, and added that everybody understands that India and Russia shared “very different relationships historically”, PTI reported.

“Well, we have already raised the issue of Ukraine with Prime Minister Narendra Modi diplomatically. Actually, they (India) were very strong in condemnation of atrocities in Bucha (a city in Ukraine),” Johnson told reporters at an event to inaugurate a new JCB factory, to be set up at an investment of £100 million (nearly Rs 995 crore).

“I think everybody understands that India and Russia have historically had very different relationships, like Russia and the UK had in the last couple of decades,” he further said while replying to a question on whether he will raise the issue of India’s stand on Ukraine with Modi. “We have to reflect that reality while talking about it (Ukraine) to Narendra Modi.”

Johnson’s visit to India comes at a time when India has taken a neutral stand on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, drawing sharp criticism from western countries, especially the US, which has accused India of not taking a clear stance against Russia.

“Yes, I am looking forward to our conversation. We will talk about trade, security and about issues of importance,” Johnson later told reporters in Ahmedabad when asked about the agenda of his meeting with Modi. “It (the trip) has been absolutely fantastic so far and it’s great to be here in Gujarat…”

Johnson started his public engagements by visiting Sabarmati Ashram. He hailed Mahatma Gandhi as an “extraordinary man” who mobilised the principles of truth and non-violence to change the world for the better. “It is an immense privilege to come to the ashram of this extraordinary man, and to understand how he mobilized such simple principles of truth and non-violence to change the world for the better,” he wrote in the visitors’ book at the ashram.

An official release from the state government said that at the Ashram, Johnson was gifted two books — Guide to London and an autobiography of Mirabehn, British national Madeleine Slade, who was a close follower of Mahatma Gandhi.

Johnson also visited Mira Kutir in front of Hriday Kunj on the Ashram premises.

He later met industrialist Adani. On their meeting, Adani tweeted, “Honoured to host @BorisJohnson, the first UK PM to visit Gujarat, at Adani HQ. Delighted to support climate & sustainability agenda with focus on renewables, green H2 & new energy. Will also work with UK companies to co-create defence & aerospace technologies.”

Later in the day, Johnson spent nearly an hour at the under-construction Gujarat Biotechnology University (GBU), at the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) in Gandhinagar. The university was set up by the state government in collaboration with UK-based Edinburgh University.

Johnson was accompanied by Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, state Science & Technology Minister Jitu Vaghani, Secretary (Department of Science & Technology) Vijay Nehra, Chief Secretary Pankaj Kumar and Chief Principal Secretary to the CM K Kailashnathan.

At GBU, Johnson held a closed-door meeting with the Chief Minister and visited two laboratories. He interacted with faculty members and research scholars for around 15 minutes. The UK PM also attended a photo-op with the GBU staff.

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