Johnson vows to deepen trade ties with India after talks with PM Modi

Boris Johnson says India has agreed a “massive push” towards striking a post-Brexit trade deal with the UK.

After meeting his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in Delhi, the PM vowed to get an agreement “done” by Diwali in late October.

Ahead of fresh negotiations next week, he said a deal could take UK-India trade to “a whole new level”.

Mr Johnson has previously signalled his target covers reaching an agreement in principle, not signing a full deal.

Experts say any agreement with India this year is likely to be a precursor to a full agreement, with talks still at a relatively early stage.

And Mr Johnson warned there would be “tough asks” from both sides.

The meeting between the two leaders in India’s capital came on the final day of Mr Johnson’s two-day trip to the country, which has been delayed by Covid.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Johnson said India was “an incredible rising power in Asia” and deepening trade was a priority.

In a signal that he could be flexible over an Indian demand for looser immigration rules for its nationals as part of a deal, Mr Johnson said Indian skills could impact sectors such as IT.

“I’m not going to be dogmatic in refusing people with skill and talent in coming to the UK,” he added.

“All I would say is we need to control it”.

Ahead of the meeting, Downing Street announced the UK planned to streamline its licensing rules for exporting military hardware to India.

No 10 said the UK would support India to construct fighter jets, in an attempt to reduce the volume of weapons bought from Russia.

There was a commitment to increase research into lowering the cost of “green” hydrogen power – part of the UK’s renewable energy plans.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson having a turban placed on his head at Gujarat Bio Technology University, as part of his two day trip to India. Picture date: Thursday April 21, 2022.IMAGE SOURCE,PA MEDIA
Image caption,

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Gujarat Biotechnology University on Thursday

Mr Johnson also said he had raised the issue of India’s relations with Russia during his meeting with Mr Modi.

Along with other Western countries, the UK has been trying to persuade India to drop its neutral stance and join in condemning Moscow, which is its biggest arms supplier.

Earlier this month, India condemned killings in the Ukrainian town of Bucha – the strongest statement it has made since Russia’s invasion. But it stopped short of blaming Russia for the violence, and has not criticised Russia directly since its invasion in February.

Mr Johnson said India had been “very strong” in its condemnation of the Bucha killings, and “everybody understands and respects” India’s longstanding relationship with Russia.

He said Mr Modi had “intervened several times with Vladimir Putin to ask him what on earth he thinks he’s doing”.

“What Indians want is peace, and the Russians out,” he added.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks to a sadhu as he visits the Swaminarayan Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad, as part of his two day trip to India.IMAGE SOURCE,PA MEDIA
Image caption,

He also visited a temple in Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad
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