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R-Day Guest Not Likely As Johnson Cancels Visit | India News

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DELHI / LONDON: Weeks before the January 26 Republic Day celebrations, in which he was to be the main guest, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson canceled his visit to India on Tuesday citing a new blockade on England and the rapid spread of the new Covid strain.
Both sides downplayed the development with Johnson reiterating his “enthusiasm” to visit India in the near future in a phone call to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the latter expressing his understanding, according to a statement issued by the Indian government, of the “exceptional situation. “in the UK, while conveying best wishes for swift control of the pandemic.
While Johnson once again thanked India for its invitation as the main guest on the upcoming Republic Day, his decision has left India with little time to search for a new guest for this month’s likely downsized celebrations. ToI has learned that India may not have any guests for this year’s Republic Day parade, assuming the parade will still take place. In that case, this will be the first time since 1966 that there will be no invitation to a foreign leader for R-Day.
The name of the R-Day guest is usually finalized and announced months in advance. The only time it was delayed in recent times was in 2018, when the suspense ended in early December when South African President Cyril Ramaphosa accepted the invitation to the 2019 celebrations after President Donald Trump turned it down.
India had recently announced that it would resume limited flights to the UK from January 8. England entered a new and complete lockdown on Monday after a further spike in Covid cases.
Modi said he hoped to receive Johnson in India as soon as possible after the situation normalized.
Modi and Johnson also reviewed ongoing cooperation between the two countries, including in the area of ​​making Covid-19 vaccines available to the world, the government said in its reading of the conversation.
“They reiterated their shared belief in the potential of the India-UK partnership in the post-BREXIT, post-Covid context, and agreed to work towards a comprehensive roadmap to realize this potential,” the government said.
Johnson is expected to visit India before June 2021, with sources suggesting it will now be in March, assuming the pandemic in Britain can be brought under control.
A Downing Street spokesperson told TOI: “The UK remains fully committed to our bilateral relationship with India, and we will continue to work closely in the coming months to develop our ties in a variety of areas, including trade and investment, health and security and climate change “.
In his phone call to Modi on Tuesday, Johnson said he hoped to be able to visit India in the first half of 2021 and before the G7 Summit in the UK, which Prime Minister Modi has confirmed he will attend as a guest. The date of the G7 summit has yet to be announced, but it will not be held before June.
The Downing Street spokesman said: “The Prime Minister spoke with Prime Minister Modi on Tuesday morning to express regret that he was unable to visit India later this month as scheduled.
“In light of the national lockdown announced Monday night and the speed at which the new variant of the coronavirus is spreading, the Prime Minister said it was important for him to remain in the UK so that he could focus on the national response to the virus. The leaders underscored their shared commitment to the bilateral relationship and to continue building on close collaboration between our countries, including in response to the pandemic. ”
It is understood that India and the UK were supposed to announce an Enhanced Trade Partnership, a trade agreement that is somewhat less than an FTA, if Johnson had attended India for Republic Day. The agreement will reduce tariffs and trade regulations and facilitate market access for each country.
“It would have been signed by someone at the ministerial level, like the Minister of Commerce. Johnson would not have signed it in India, but the announcement would have taken place around the same time. The work will continue as it is part of the UK’s post-Brexit trade deals, ”said an Indian government source. “We do not know exactly when it will be signed as the text is still being produced. But the announcement, like others, will be postponed until the British prime minister visits India. But the trade talks will continue and we will continue to advance the enhanced trade partnership and Trade Minister Piyush Goyal will meet soon with International Trade Secretary Liz Truss. ”
Vishwesh Negi, Minister (Politics and Extradition and Press and Information) to the High Commissioner of India in London, told TOI: “Bilateral and multilateral cooperation between the two countries is underway and will be further intensified, whether when India starts. his two-year term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council on January 1, whether working in security and defense, a stronger trade and economic relationship, migration and mobility of citizens of both countries, there are the Dialogue mechanisms under a bilateral and multilateral framework are already taking place and the results of these will flow into the main deliverables when the UK Prime Minister visits India in the near future. ”
It is speculated that one of the other announcements could be that the United Kingdom reveals that it will join the informal strategic forum between the United States, Japan, Australia and India, known as Quad.

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