British PM arrives in Ahmedabad; deals worth £1 billion on cards

Boris Johnson will meet Narendra Modi on Friday in New Delhi where the leaders are expected to hold talks on the economic, security and defence collaborations between the two countries

Johnson was received by Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat and Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel at the Ahmedabad airport.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrived in Ahmedabad on Thursday morning, on a two-day visit to India.

He was received by Governor Acharya Devvrat and Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel.

Johnson started his visit with a roadshow from the airport to his hotel and later visited the Sabarmati Ashram. He was also due to visit the Akshardham Temple in Gandhinagar.

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Johnson will announce a raft of commercial agreements and hail a “new era” in bilateral trade and investment ties during the visit, the UK High Commission said shortly before he landed. 

It said UK and Indian businesses will confirm more than £1 billion (1 GBP= Rs99.63) in new investments and export deals in areas from software engineering to health, creating almost 11,000 jobs across the UK. 

“As I arrive in India today, I see vast possibilities for what our two great nations can achieve together. From next-generation 5G telecoms and AI to new partnerships in health research and renewable energy – the UK and India are leading the world,” Johnson was quoted as saying by the high commission. 

“Our powerhouse partnership is delivering jobs, growth and opportunities for our people, and it will only go from strength-to-strength in the coming years,” he said. 

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Johnson will hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Friday after concluding his engagements in Gujarat on Thursday. The two leaders are expected to delve extensively to further expand ties in various key sectors including defence and trade besides exchanging views on the crisis in Ukraine. 

The high commission said Johnson will use his visit to “boost our collaboration with one of the world’s fastest growing economies, slashing trade barriers for UK businesses and driving jobs and growth at home”. 

It said the UK will confirm major new science and tech collaboration, including a digital health partnership and a joint investment fund for Indian deep-tech and AI start-ups, supported by the UK and Indian governments. 

“As he moves on to New Delhi on Friday, the prime minister will also use this weeks visit to drive progress in negotiations on the landmark UK-India free trade agreement, which is expected to help double our trade and investment by 2030,” the high commission said. “Negotiating teams will hold their third round of formal talks in India next week.”

The high commission said work is already progressing on cutting red tape for businesses following the UK-India Enhanced Trade Partnership launched by both prime ministers last year. 

“And today our governments will announce new measures to make it easier to export UK-made medical devices to India. This will support UK jobs and create opportunities for British med-tech companies like Redcar-based Micropore Technologies to sell their lifesaving products in India, an import market worth £2.4 billion,” it said. 

In Gujarat, the British PM is scheduled to visit a new factory being opened by a British firm as well as a biotechnology university working in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh. The new investments worth £1 billion will include setting up of a new Switch Mobility electric bus R&D centre in the UK and the opening of their Asia Pacific headquarters in Chennai. The initiatives also include Indian firm Bharat Forge and electric truck maker Tevva Motors expanding to a new site in the south-east and creating 500 new jobs and Indian software company Mastek investing £79 million to create 1,600 jobs over the next three years all over the UK, according to the high commission. 

It said the new investments will also include business consultancy FirstSource opening new offices in South Wales, the Midlands and cities in the North-East and North-West and Hertfordshire-based firm Smith & Nephew agreeing to a major export deal to sell robotic surgical systems in India. 

The India-UK relationship was elevated 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 adopted a 10-year-roadmap to expand ties in key areas of trade and economy, defence and security, climate change and people-to-people connections among others.

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