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UK keen on early FTA, deeper military cooperation with India: Boris Johnson

Addressing media persons after the end of bilateral talks, the British leader said that a new defence partnership agreement signed between the two countries on Friday will enable India to strengthen its defence industry.

Boris Johnson Narendra Modi India UK
United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson with Prime Minister Narendra Modi prior to their meeting at Hyderabad House, in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)

Supporting India’s goal of building own fighter jets, and reducing expensive military imports, and an early Free Trade Agreement (FTA) to be concluded by Diwali, were some of the major issues that topped British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Addressing media persons after the end of bilateral talks, the British leader said that a new defence partnership agreement signed between the two countries on Friday will enable India to strengthen its defence industry.

Defence Cooperation
“The expanded defence and security partnership will help in protecting vital shared interests in the Indo-Pacific Region and will also help India strengthen its own domestic defence industry,” the visiting leader said.

He said that his country would support India in its goal of building not only fighter jets, but also help it reduce military imports. In fact, the British government was in the process of creating an India-specific Open General Export License (OGEL), this would help in cutting down the delivery time for items. So far, only the US and European Union have such licenses.

Russia-Ukraine
Responding to a question about India’s position on Russia-Ukraine, he said that the issue was discussed, and he recognized India’s decades-long ties with Moscow.

“India has a historic relationship with Russia and everybody respects it. The position on Russia that the Indians have historically is well known. They are not going to change that, of course, that’s true,” PM Johnson said.

“PM Modi has intervened several times with Russia’s Putin,” he added.

India-UK FTA
The visiting leader said that negotiators have been told to get it done by Diwali in October. And expressed hope tariff issues are also addressed soon.

Even as he reiterated that immigration would continue to be controlled, according to the British PM, the skilled workers from India could plug labour shortages in sectors such as information technology in the UK.

According to sources, a team of negotiators from the UK are expected to visit India next week.

Extradition of economic offenders
To another question, he confirmed that the issue of economic fugitives did figure in the talks with his counterpart. And he said that for Britain extradition of the offenders was a high priority and they needed to be back in India to face the justice system.

Addressing India’s concerns over Khalistani elements
“We don’t tolerate extremist groups operating in the UK and targeting other countries,” PM Johnson said.

Reports of Rights violation in India
He said that India is a great democracy and has constitutional protection. “It is a very different country from autocracies of the world and it is stunning and a shining fact that 1.35 billion people are living under democracy.

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