British PM Boris Johnson begins his Indian tour: Then he missed a history and now, he has created a one!

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has landed in India on Thursday - April 21 for a two-day tour with a well-packed agenda. Amid a slew of global uncertainties from Russia's invasion of Ukraine to the imperativeness of enhancing the UK's role in the Indo-Pacific with India's partnership, Boris Johnson has begun his first Indian tour since taking the office and during his stay in India, he will be holding talks with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi and India's Foreign Minister Dr S Jaishankar. 

The leaders will be covering the entire gamut of the relations between the two countries and for Boris Johnson, it has become a historical visit as though he missed a history months ago, he had made a new one. Had Covid not played a spoilsport, Boris Johnson should have been the Chief Guest for India's Republic Day in January. With India making arrangements to host him, Johnson would have made a history of becoming the first British Prime Minister to attend India's Republic Day after three decades. 

Earlier, the then British Prime Minister John Major had visited India as the Chief Guest of the Republic Day event in 1993 after which, the 2022 parade was getting ready to welcome Boris Johnson and as the Covid spread was troubling the UK, he had cancelled the visit later. Months after missing a history, Boris Johnson has now made a new history by becoming the first British Prime Minister to visit the Indian state of Gujarat. 

On Thursday, Boris Johnson has landed in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, and he was welcomed by Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendrabhai Patel and senior officials. Johnson's Gujarat visit has become crucial as Gujarat is the ancestral home of around half of the British-Indian population in the UK. In Ahmedabad, the British Prime Minister has been scheduled to visit the business leaders and he will be discussing the UK and India's thriving commercial, trade, and links between the people. 

Upon arriving in Gujarat, Johnson had visited Sabarmati Ashram and he had spun the chakra used by the father of India, Mahatma Gandhi. After visiting the Ashram, Boris Johnson wrote a message in the visiting book, "It is an immense privilege to come to the Ashram of this extraordinary man, and to understand how he mobilised such simple principles of truth and non-violence to change the world for the better". After visiting Gujarat, Boris Johnson will be travelling to New Delhi where he will meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

According to reports, Boris Johnson will attend a ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Friday - April 22 and later, he will lay the wreath at Gandhi's memorial. He will then be meeting Prime Minister Modi and they will be unveiling talks on several areas. Johnson's Indian tour has become significant in pushing the proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) further, it will enhance cooperation in the Indo-Pacific and the defence ties. 

While it was expected that both the leaders will discuss the Russian Invasion of Ukraine, PTI has quoted the sources saying that Boris Johnson will not be schooling New Delhi on how to respond to the invasion and a major focus of Johnson's talks with Modi will be on the situation in the Indo-Pacific as the UK has strongly been opposing any kind of coercion in the region. It has been reported that the UK is ready to extend its cooperation in realising Modi's vision of making India a hub for defence manufacturing and that the country was ready for the transfer of technologies for joint production of military hardware. 

On the front of the India-UK Free Trade Agreement, PTI has quoted the sources saying that Johnson's visit will be leading the agreement to the next round of negotiations that has been scheduled for next week and both sides aim to conclude the negotiations on FTA by the end of this year. The officials said that the aim is to have something long-lasting for the next 25 years and both the leaders will be discussing a wide range of key bilateral issues with a focus on strengthening the ties. 

After meeting Narendra Modi, Boris Johnson will have a meeting with Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar and on Friday afternoon, both sides will be issuing a press statement on what they had discussed and where those discussions will take the ties. According to a statement by the British High Commission, Johnson will use the visit to drive progress in the Free Trade Agreement negotiations launched earlier this year as a deal with India is predicted to boost UK's total trade by up to 28 billion pounds annually by 2035 and increase incomes across the UK by up to 3 billion pounds. 

The India -UK relationship had seen an elevation to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership during the India-UK virtual summit held between Modi and Johnson in May last year. At the summit, the two sides had adopted a 10-year-roadmap to expand ties in the key areas of trade and economy, defence, security, climate change, and people-to-people connections.