NEW DELHI (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit is unlikely to change New Delhi’s relationship with Moscow, analysts said on Thursday, as the prime minister arrived in India to boost security and economic cooperation.
Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, New Delhi faced increasing Western pressure to denounce the war. India has refrained from complying with UN resolutions censoring Russia, its longtime ally and main arms supplier, and has not imposed sanctions on Moscow.
When Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in New Delhi earlier this month, his trip was preceded by visits from Western envoys, including US Deputy National Security Adviser Daleep Singh and British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, who had tried to pressure India for tougher action.
But that’s not expected this time, even though Johnson is one of the few world leaders to have visited Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, since the Russian assault began, in what has been widely seen as a display of solidarity.
“I think India’s position has been widely expressed and will not change. Despite these differences, he comes to India,” Professor Harsh V. Pant, head of strategic studies at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, told Arab News.
“If this issue was the centerpiece, or if this visit was mainly about Ukraine, he would be reluctant (to come) because at the end of the day, he wouldn’t get anything out of it.”
Johnson is making his first trip to India since taking office in 2019. He began the visit by meeting business leaders in Gujarat, the home state of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ancestral home of half of the Indian diaspora in the UK.
From there, Johnson will travel to New Delhi on Friday to meet Modi. The British Prime Minister’s spokesman said earlier this week that the two leaders will talk about a new defense partnership and free trade agreement, which they began discussing earlier this year.
“I think the importance is that both parties really map out a strategic roadmap for their relationship,” Pant said. “Trade is becoming a very important part of discussions for a variety of reasons. Of course, the first is that Britain is looking for post-Brexit economic policy when it needs to reach new centers of economic power, and India is certainly a big part of the dynamic. .
He added that New Delhi, too, wants to establish itself as a “responsible economic player”.
At the beginning of April, India signed a free trade agreement with Australia. A similar agreement will enter into force with the United Arab Emirates on May 1.
“The UK is another country where India would like to take this conversation very seriously,” Pant said.
Anil Trigunayat, India’s former ambassador to Jordan, Libya and Malta, told Arab News that New Delhi had “acquired considerable importance” for the UK after London completed its exit from the EU in 2020.
“This is one of the first trade deals that they discussed with India and tried to push it through the mainstream,” he said.
“In the case of the Ukraine and Russia crisis, I think India’s position is well known and will likely be reiterated.”