New Delhi, Apr 21 (EFE).- United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrived in India on Thursday for a two-day visit to strengthen commercial and security ties with the former British colony that relies heavily on Russian oil and military hardware.
Johnson landed in the western city of Ahmedabad, the commercial capital of Gujarat, the home state of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel and Governor Acharya Devvrat accorded Johnson a floral reception at the Ahmedabad airport as dozens of people waving British and Indian flags lined up the 4-km stretch to welcome the high-profile guest on his way to a city hotel.
In Gujarat, Johnson will meet with business leaders to announce a raft of commercial agreements in “a new era in the UK and India’s trade, investment and technology partnership,” an official statement said.
The statement said UK and Indian businesses would confirm more than £1 billion ($1.30 billion) in new investments and export deals in areas from software engineering to health, creating almost 11,000 jobs across the UK.
“Our powerhouse partnership is delivering jobs, growth, and opportunities for our people, and it will only go from strength-to-strength in the coming years,” the statement quoted Johnson as saying.
He said there were “vast possibilities for what our two great nations can achieve together.”
“From next-generation 5G telecoms and (artificial intelligence) AI to new partnerships in health research and renewable energy – the UK and India are leading the world,” said Johnson.
The visit assumes significance since the United State and its western allies have been trying to convince India speak against Russia, its main military equipment supplier, over its invasion of Ukraine.
India abstained in a United Nations vote that condemned the invasion and has not joined the global chorus of imposing sanctions on Moscow.
Prime Minister Modi has, however, expressed concern over the killing of civilians in Ukraine and called for an independent probe.
Ahead of Johnson’s visit, OneWeb, a UK-based low Earth orbit satellite communications startup, signed a contract to use India’s launch vehicle for its satellite launches this year.
OneWeb, which the British government has invested in, signed the agreement with New Space India Limited, the commercial arm of the Indian Space Research Organisation.
“(The) agreement with India is a significant development for the company’s operations,” the British prime minister’s statement said.
The first launch is anticipated later this year from the Satish Dhawan Space Center in Sriharikota, a barrier island off the Bay of Bengal coast in southern Andhra Pradesh.
As Johnson moves on to New Delhi Friday, he will also use the visit to drive progress in negotiations on the landmark UK-India free trade agreement, expected to help double the trade and investment between the two countries by 2030.
Negotiators will hold their third round of formal talks in India next week.
Johnson will hold talks with Prime Minister Modi in the Indian capital, the Indian foreign ministry said.
The two will exchange memorandums of understanding after paying tributes to Mahatma Gandhi, a champion of the non-violent struggle that won India its freedom from the British Empire in 1947. EFE