Prime Ministers of India and the UK, Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson, held the India-UK Virtual Summit 2021 on May 4, 2021. The highly anticipated bilateral summit happened after being postponed twice.
Boris Johnson accepted the invite to be the Chief Guest for Republic Day this year. He cancelled his trip due to the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the UK. The visit was rescheduled to happen in April. The rising number of Covid-19 cases in India put a halt on it.
During the summit, PM Modi and PM Johnson laid out a ten-year roadmap for India-UK bilateral ties. They adopted an ambitious ‘Roadmap 2030’ initiative and elevated the bilateral ties to a ‘Comprehensive Strategic Relationship’.
Post-Brexit, the UK gives high importance to the bilateral ties with India. Both countries are looking for opportunities to enhance economic cooperation and trade opportunities. A host of ministers of the UK government are flying to lay the ground for a free trade deal.
India is a significant trade partner of the UK. It is the sixth-largest non-EU (European Union) trading partner. And the bilateral relationship supports up to 500,000 jobs. The geopolitics post-Brexit make India an attractive partner for the UK.
The Foreign Secretary of the UK, Dominic Raab, flew down to India in December last year. He met his Indian counterpart Dr S Jaishankar. The bilateral meeting served as a vehicle to lay the ground for a free trade agreement between the countries.
The Joint Statement released after the India-UK Virtual Summit between the Indian PM Modi and the British PM Johnson talked of the broad scope of opportunities that would strengthen the bilateral relationship. The leaders unveiled an ambitious ‘Roadmap 2030’ vision document charting the course for India-UK ties for the decade.
Both leaders discussed the Covid-19 situation and offered condolences for the loss of lives. They agreed to further cooperation on fighting the pandemic by strengthening the existing India-UK vaccine partnership.
Trade was the major component of the bilateral summit. India and UK launched the Enhanced Trade Partnership. It was a $1.39 billion trade deal signed between the countries. This deal opened doors for Indian companies to invest in the UK and vice versa. The £240 million investment of Serum Institute of India is a part of the deal. They announced the intent to negotiate a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement by the end of the year.
The two leaders reviewed the joint investment programs and welcomed the gains made through them. Both countries signed an MoU on the Global Innovation Partnership to support inclusive innovations from India to selected developing countries. The collaborative effort to promote the linkage of UK financial systems to GIFT city was welcomed.
They agreed to deepen the defence and security cooperation, focusing on maritime security and industrial collaboration. They affirmed their shared vision of an open, accessible, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region, underpinned by respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty.
The countries agreed to establish an annual UK-India Maritime Dialogue. They agreed to conduct joint exercises to deepen cooperation in a region of critical strategic importance. In addition, both the countries agreed on an India-UK collaboration on key military technologies. As a part of Roadmap 2030, they agreed to closely work together in India’s indigenous development of Light Combat Aircraft Mark 2.
Climate change and global multilateral bodies featured during the talks. Both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to taking ambitious climate action to pursue the Paris Agreement’s goals. They agreed to step up collaboration between the two countries on climate change and renewable energy. They plan to launch the green grids initiative at COP 26 and protecting forests.
The two leaders emphasised improving people to people contacts between India and UK. They affirmed that these contacts provided durability to the bilateral relationship. They welcomed the signing of the India-UK comprehensive Migration and Mobility Partnership.