UK and India vow ‘quantum leap’ in ties as Johnson, Modi Speak

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson at the INDIA-UK Virtual Summit, in New Delhi. (ANI)

The U.K. and India pledged a “quantum leap” in their relationship and said they aim to double their trade by 2030, following a virtual meeting between Boris Johnson and Narendra Modi on Tuesday.

In a U.K. statement following the call, Johnson said a “new era” had begun with the world’s largest democracy and that Britain would continue to support India as it battles the coronavirus pandemic. Britain has been sending emergency equipment and oxygen to help India tackle a surge in infections.

The Johnson-Modi meeting comes as the U.K. tries to strengthen diplomatic and economic alliances after leaving the European Union and as it prepares to host the Group of Seven summit in June. Britain also announced an expected 1 billion pounds ($1.4 billion) of extra trade with India over an unspecified time period, which it said would create 6,500 British jobs.

The investment precedes negotiations on a formal free-trade agreement, with talks expected to start in the fall.

“This is going to be a win-win for both countries,” Trade Secretary Liz Truss said on Sky News. “There are currently very high tariffs on products like cars and whisky into India — we want to see those tariffs removed to benefit businesses in Britain.”

U.K.-India trade is currently worth about 23 billion pounds a year, less than a tenth of Britain’s trade with the EU, according to the British government. In 2019, 1.1% of U.K. exports went to India, and 2% of Britain’s imports came from the country.

The trade package includes 533 million pounds of new Indian investment into the U.K. in areas such as health and technology. The highest profile deal is a 240 million pound investment by the Serum Institute of India into their vaccine business, the British government said.

Other areas where the U.K. and India want to work together include tackling climate change, increasing cooperation between their universities and combating common security threats, the U.K. said in the statement.

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