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India-UK close to breakthrough in trade ties, Indo-Pacific partnership

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Boris Johnson are expected to achieve a breakthrough, at the virtual summit on Tuesday, in taking trade ties to the next level in the post-Brexit era, besides giving shape to the bilateral Indo-Pacific partnership.

A comprehensive Roadmap 2030 will be launched at the summit, which will pave the way for expanding and deepening India-UK cooperation over the next decade across five key areas – people-to-people relationship, trade and prosperity, defence and security, climate action and healthcare – officials told ET.

Besides, the two PMs are expected giving a concrete shape to the Indo-Pacific partnership ahead of the UK Navy’s carrier group in India this autumn, said people aware of the matter.

India has welcomed a greater interest and attention that the UK is devoting to the Indo-Pacific region. The UK wants to align its vision with New Delhi’s vision to aim for a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific region. It wants to expand its influence among countries in the Indo-Pacific region to try to moderate China’s global dominance, according to a document laying out post-Brexit foreign and defence policy priorities. The document was released in March.

Mobility is another area which will get priority in Tuesday’s summit as the UK is actively seeking Indian investments besides cooperation with skilled Indians. The G-7 Summit in June where India has been invited by the UK as a guest country will also figure in discussions at the Modi-Johnson summit.

Johnson has twice postponed his India trip this year due to Covid. While he postponed his trip for the January 26 Republic Day celebrations owing to the Covid-19 situation in the UK, the second wave of the pandemic in India forced postponement of his trip last week.

Meanwhile, the UK will send 1,000 more ventilators for use in India’s hospitals. This is in addition to 200 ventilators, 495 oxygen concentrators and three oxygen generation units announced by the UK.

The India-UK merchandise trade amounted to $15.45 billion in 2019-20, and trade in services was $9.5 billion in 2017. Bilateral trade remained in India’s favour in 2019-20. The UK used to be the second largest trading partner of India in 1998-99. But it ranked 16th in the list of India’s trading partners in 2018-19.

India invested in 120 projects and created 5,429 new jobs in the UK to become the second-largest source of foreign direct investment after the US in 2019, according to the Department for International Trade inward investment statistics for 2019-2020.

EU assures additional support against Covid fight

Ahead of the May 8 Summit Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a phone call on Monday with Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, during which the EU side assured strong support to fight pandemic.

“There is clear momentum to strengthen our strategic relations on trade, digital, climate change & multilateralism. I’m encouraged by the prospect of intensifying our trade & investment relations. This would tap into a huge potential to the benefit of our businesses & citizens,” tweeted der Leyen.

She further tweeted, “The EU stands by India, as I told Prime Minister @narendramodi today. More aid – oxygen cylinders, ventilators, medication – is channelled to 🇮🇳 from Czechia, Denmark, Spain, Netherlands and Germany via the 🇪🇺Civil Protection Mechanism. This is global solidarity in action.”

The two leaders exchanged views on the prevailing COVID-19 situation in India and the EU, including India’s ongoing efforts to contain the second wave of COVID-19. Modi expressed his appreciation of the EU and its Member States for mobilizing quick support for India’s fight against the second wave of COVID-19.

They noted that the India-EU Strategic Partnership was witnessing a renewed momentum since the last Summit in July. The leaders agreed that the forthcoming India-EU Leaders’Meeting on 8 May 2021 in virtual format was an important opportunity to provide renewed momentum to the already multi-faceted India-EU relationship.

The India-EU Leaders’ Meeting will be the first meeting in the EU+27 format and reflects the shared ambition of both sides for further strengthening the India-EU Strategic Partnership.