London: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will travel to India next month in his first major bilateral visit to another country since taking power last year, his office said Tuesday.
During the trip, Johnson will invite India to join next year’s G7 summit, which Britain is hosting, as one of three guest countries, alongside South Korea and Australia.
The Indian trip is aimed at strengthening bilateral trade ties and investment, and cooperation in various areas including defence, security, health and climate change.
The visit, to coincide with India’s annual Republic Day celebrations on January 26, will also come just weeks after the UK leaves the European Union single market on December 31, and as it seeks new trade deals post-Brexit.
“I am absolutely delighted to be visiting India next year at the start of an exciting year for Global Britain, and look forward to delivering the quantum leap in our bilateral relationship that Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi and I have pledged to achieve,” Johnson said in a statement.
“As a key player in the Indo-Pacific region, India is an increasingly indispensable partner for the United Kingdom as we work to boost jobs and growth, confront shared threats to our security and protect our planet.”
Johnson’s visit follows an invitation from Modi, who last weekend took part in a climate summit hosted by London.
He will be only the second British leader since Indian independence to attend the annual Republic Day parade in New Delhi as a guest of honour, after John Major in 1993.
Johnson’s office highlighted the two countries’ burgeoning trade and investment relationship, which it said is worth £24 billion ($32 billion, 26 billion euros) annually and supports more than half a million jobs.
It noted their increased cooperation during the coronavirus pandemic, with India’s large pharmaceutical sector supplying more than half of the world’s vaccines.
At least a billion doses of Britain’s Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine are being manufactured at the Serum Institute in the western Indian city of Pune.
Meanwhile, the UK has received 11 million face masks and 3 million packets of paracetamol from India during the pandemic, according to Downing Street.