India – UK Virtual Summit: India Calls For Stronger Trade Cooperation with UK; Emphasises Global Cooperation and Solidarity Are Key to Defeat the Pandemic

Foreign Affairs

New Delhi: India reiterated the need for international partnership to deal with the pandemic and called for stronger trade cooperation with the United Kingdom. This intent was expressed during the virtual summit meeting conducted between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Boris Johnson which came hours after a number of Indian companies including the Serum Institute of India pledged major investment for post-Brexit UK.

“Both Leaders emphasised that global cooperation and solidarity are key to fighting the pandemic and achieving sustainable and inclusive recovery. They agreed to expand and enhance the existing UK-India vaccines partnership, highlighting the successful collaboration between Oxford University, Astra Zeneca and the Serum Institute of India on an effective Covid19 vaccine that is ‘developed in UK’, ‘Made in India’ and ‘distributed globally’,” declared a Joint Statement issued after the virtual meeting between the two Prime Ministers.

The declaration to “expand” the India-UK vaccine partnership came hours after several major Indian companies pledged to commit major financial investment into the UK. Prime Minister Johnson had announced a series of commercial trade and investment deals with the aim to create 6,500 jobs in his country. The biggest of the announced deals is by the Serum Institute of India (SII) which pledged £240 million investment to expand its vaccine business in the UK. In all, PM Johnson declared £1 billion worth trade and investment deals between two sides that also included software giant Infosys.

The Prime Ministers of U.K. and India announced that both sides will negotiate a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement that will double bilateral trade by 2030. The two sides also discussed concluding an Interim Trade Agreement to ensure “early gains” of trade. Both sides also agreed to deepen defence ties with a renewed focus on the Indo-Pacific region under the India-UK Defence and International Security Partnership framework. They also firmed up plans for new logistics MoU. “During the deployment of the UK’s Carrier Strike Group in the Indian Ocean Region in 2021, they agreed to hold joint exercises that will deepen cooperation in a region of critical strategic importance to both countries,” declared the Joint Statement.

The two delegations also discussed the ongoing violence in Afghanistan where a difficult negotiation for peace between the Government of President Ghani and the Taliban is stalled. They resolved that the solution for the civil war in Afghanistan should not compromise on the gains made in the front of civil liberty and women’s rights in Afghanistan over the two previous decades. Both sides agreed to work together to ensure “permanent and comprehensive ceasefire leading to sustainable peace”. India and the UK highlighted common intent to uphold “rules based” international order for the Indo-Pacific region that will safeguard free passage for ships and aircraft.

Both the leaders also welcomed the signing of the India-UK Migration and Mobility Partnership (MMP) that is aimed at reducing illegal immigration into the United Kingdom. The issue of illegal immigration had been a sticking point between both sides for years. However it is understood that MMP will help genuine immigrants and students and will reduce immigration-related crimes.