Prime Minister Boris Johnson will head to India (Daniel Leal/PA)
20 April 2022

Boris Johnson expects new defence deal in India to add to pressure on Putin

20 April 2022

Boris Johnson is expecting to seal new collaborations on defence and green energy in India as he seeks to reduce the country’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels and military equipment.

The Prime Minister will leave on Wednesday for two days in India during which he also hopes to help progress a post-Brexit free trade deal.

But the trip takes place amid the tumult caused by Mr Johnson being fined by police for breaching his own coronavirus laws with his 56th birthday celebration in 2020.

He will on Thursday miss a Labour-led vote on whether to refer him to the Commons Privileges Committee for an investigation into whether he intentionally misled Parliament with his denials.

In Delhi, Mr Johnson is expected to encourage Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to loosen ties with Vladimir Putin’s Russia in response to Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

But No 10 has been cautious to stress he will not seek to “lecture” Mr Modi, despite concerns that the Indian leader has not been strong enough in condemning the war.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We will be looking to secure new partnerships on trade, technology and defence on the visit that will include significant new investment on jobs announcements and science partnership.

“In Delhi we’ll be announcing a new collaboration on defence and green energy.”

Boris Johnson with Narendra Modi (Phil Noble/PA) (PA Wire)

Mr Johnson was determined to push on with the trip despite the Commons vote and slowly increasing calls from his own Tory MPs for his resignation.

His plans to visit have twice been cancelled, first over the UK’s winter wave of Covid infections and then in April last year in response to a new variant hitting India.

The trip is not directly linked to the Ukraine crisis, but Mr Johnson’s spokesman said it “will of course be a topic of discussion”.

Downing Street expressed an ambition that a post-Brexit free trade deal with one of the world’s largest economies could be brokered this year, but did not seem overly confident.

The official spokesman said: “We don’t want to sacrifice quality for speed and our ambition is to reach it by the end of the year, but we recognise negotiations can take longer if you’re seeking to secure the best possible deal for both sides.”

He said the deal needs to be “fair” and “reciprocal” while being consistent with the points-based immigration system launched after the EU departure.

Asked if he was ruling out reducing visa fees for those in India or a working holiday agreement for its young people, the spokesman said: “I’m conscious that I can’t get too much into the detail of ongoing negotiations.

“The point I’m trying to make is immigration is not routinely a formal part of trade talks and our broad position on this is that any agreement will have to be consistent with a points-based immigration system.”

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