Modi invites Boris Johnson to be chief guest at Indian celebrations, post-Brexit UK-India ties discussed

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NEW DELHI: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson may visit India for the 2021 Republic Day celebrations, informed sources have said here. According to the reports, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in a phone conversation with his UK counterpart last week, invited him to be Chief Guest at the January 26 celebrations when India showcases its cultural diversity and military arsenal.

Narindera Modi

There is no official statement from the foreign ministry so far. “We can’t confirm one way or other, PM Boris Johnson keen to visit India as soon as possible,” a British High Commission spokesperson was quoted as telling news agency ANI on the reported invite. The last British PM to attend the parade was John Major in 1993.

The two leaders “reiterated their shared desire to impart a quantum jump to the India-UK partnership in the post-COVID, post-BREXIT era, and agreed that there was tremendous potential for enhancing collaboration in trade and investment, scientific research, mobility of professionals and students, and defence and security,” the statement said.

“The two leaders exchanged thoughts about the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and reviewed the promising cooperation between India and UK in the area of vaccine development and manufacturing.”

The leaders agreed that officials from both sides would continue their work to quickly finalise an ambitious long-term roadmap for the India-UK partnership, the statement concluded.

PM Modi’s tweet on the call said: “Had an excellent discussion with my friend, UK PM Boris Johnson, on an ambitious roadmap for India-UK ties in the next decade. We agreed to work towards a quantum leap in our cooperation in all areas – trade & investment, defence and security, climate change, and fighting Covid-19.”

This time, the celebrations are expected to be curtailed because of the coronavirus crisis. Sources say there may be less tableaux and a shorter function. Past guests include US President Barack Obama and French President Francois Hollande.

While the UK is aspiring to become Global Britain from Great Britain, the January 1 Brexit will put serious pressure on London as the European Union accounted for 47% of UK’s total trade; 43% of UK exports and 52% imports. With Europe prepared for a hard border and incoming US president Joe Biden earlier expressing his apprehensions about Brexit, the UK is facing uncertainty on trade issues.