‘Everybody respects it’: UK PM Johnson condones India’s ‘historical’ ties with Russia

NEW DELHI: India-UK trade agreements, military ties and India’s position vis-à-vis Russia and the Ukraine war dominated talks during UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s two-day visit to India.
Johnson met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at New Delhi’s Hyderabad House, where the two leaders also discussed free trade negotiations, cooperation on energy, green hydrogen, and defence ties.
Here are the highlights and major areas of discussion during the UK PM’s tour of India.
Trade and economy
Johnson said negotiators from the two countries were expected to complete a free-trade deal by the end of this year.
“We’re telling our negotiators to get it done by Diwali in October. This could double our trade and investments by the end of the decade,” he said.
Johnson said that skilled workers from India could plug labour shortages in sectors such as information technology in the UK, even as he reiterated that immigration would continue to be controlled.
Defence
A new defence partnership agreement signed on Friday by Britain and India will enable India to strengthen its defence industry, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.
“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,” Johnson
Johnson said Britain would support India’s goal of building its own fighter jets, to reduce expensive imports of military equipment. He also said Britain was also creating an India-specific open general export license to slash delivery times for defence items. Only the European Union and the United States currently have such licences.
Foreign Secretary Shringla said India could seek Britain’s support on electric propulsion systems for naval ships and jet propulsion systems for planes. The focus was on “co-development and co-production” of defence equipment, he said.
India’s position on Russia and the Ukraine war
The British Prime Minister seemed to recognise India’s decades-long ties with Moscow and condone New Delhi’s stand on Russia vis-à-vis the war in Ukraine.
“The position on Russia that the Indians have historically is well known. They are not going to change that, of course, that’s true,” Johnson said during a news conference. “India has historic relationship with Russia and everybody respects it.”
“Talking to India PM Modi, (it is) clear that he has already intervened several time with Russia’s Putin,” Johnson added.
Addressing the media later, foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said that Johnson put no pressure on PM Modi over New Delhi’s position on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Extradition of economic offenders
The issue of economic fugitives figured in talks British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had with Indian leaders here with the government conveying that the extradition of these offenders is a high priority as they need to be back to face the justice system.
“Our objective is to bring those economic fugitives who are wanted in India to face justice in the country, and the matter did come up in today’s talks,” foreign secretary Shringla said.
“It was conveyed that it was a high priority and the economic offenders who are in the UK, need to be back in India from our justice system perspective,” he added.
He said Prime Minister Johnson took note of the point raised and indicated that he was very sensitive to Indian concerns in this regard
Khalistan acticvists in UK, reports of rights violations in India
On India’s concerns over Khalistani elements in the UK, Johnson said, “We don’t tolerate extremist groups operating in UK and targeting other countries.”
Asked about reports of rights violations in India, Johnson said India is a great democracy and has constitutional protection.
“India a very different country from autocracies around the world. It’s a great democracy. It’s a stunning, shining fact that 1.35 billion people live under a democracy. That is something we should celebrate as it offers us an opportunity for closer cooperation and partnership.”

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