Boris Johnson wooing India to boost the UK’s post-Brexit economy
The British prime minister started a two-day visit in Gujarat in order to persuade Modi to sign a free trade agreement “by the end of the year”. The UK leader is offering easier entry visas for Indian nationals, but this might not be enough to overcome Indian resistance.
Ahmedabad (AsiaNews) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has arrived in India today for a two-day visit after announcing a number of new trade agreements worth £1 billion (US$ 1.3 billion) hoping they will pave the way for a free trade deal with India “by the end of the year”.
Postponed several times due to COVID-19, the visit comes at a particular time for Johnson who faces a series of domestic issues, like the partygate scandal, as well as India’s different position on the war in Ukraine.
However, for the British prime minister the real priority is to boost economic relations with Modi's India, a major world player, following the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union (Brexit).
It is no coincidence that the visit began today in Ahmedabad, in the State of Gujarat. This is the first time a British Prime Minister visits India’s economic powerhouse, which is also the original homeland of half of the UK’s Indian community.
His first stop was at the Sabarmati Ashram where Mahatma Gandhi lived. Paying tribute to India’s foremost independence campaigner gave Johnson an opportunity for some photo ops, like turning the charkha, the spinning wheel.
However, the more substantive moment came when he met with Gautam Adani, Modi’s oligarch, who was recently touted as one of the world’s richest men, and on whose investments Johnson is betting.
In the next stage, the British leader will travel to New Delhi where he will meet the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Sources in London have leaked that to strike a free trade deal with India, Johnson is prepared to increase visa quotas for Indian immigrants this year. Still, few expect this to be sufficient for Modi to grant the UK an advantage over the United States and the European Union.