UK-India collaboration at heart of vaccine miracle: UK PM Boris Johnson | India News

UK-India collaboration at heart of vaccine miracle: UK PM Boris Johnson | India News
The Enhanced Trade Partnership will unlock new opportunities for Indian businesses in the United Kingdom and British businesses in India, UK PM Boris Johnson tells TOI in an exclusive email interview. Excerpts:
Q: Given the Covid surge in India and the strong relationship between UK and India in healthcare, how do you think we can expand this relationship in terms of vaccine production?
Coronavirus is the greatest global challenge of our lifetimes. If we’re going to defeat this pandemic, countries will have to work together with a spirit of openness.
India and the UK have demonstrated this commitment to cooperation throughout the last year. You have kept your borders open so that vital medicine and PPE gets to those who need it in the UK and of course we cannot forget the immense contribution Indian people make to our National Health Service.
I’m proud that the UK has been able to help India during the acute Covid emergency you are currently facing. On Sunday I announced 1,000 more ventilators will be sent from the UK’s surplus supply to Indian hospitals to help the most severe Covid cases. This is in addition to 200 ventilators, 495 oxygen concentrators and 3 oxygen generation units we announced last week. Businesses, civil society and the wider public have also responded to appeals for help and launched funding drives. I am deeply moved by the surge of support the British people have provided to the people of India and am pleased the UK government has been able to play our part in providing life-saving assistance. We’ll continue to look for ways to support in the coming weeks.
The development of coronavirus vaccines is nothing short of a scientific miracle. UK-India collaboration is at the heart of that story – the UK funded the creation of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, doses of which are now being produced in their millions at the Serum Institute to be distributed – at cost – around the world.
It is now the responsibility of all governments to get vaccines to those who need them, wherever they are in the world. That is why the UK has given £548m to the COVAX scheme to get vaccines to developing countries and pledged to share any excess vaccine doses we have with the scheme.
I look forward to working closely with Prime Minister Modi and others to increase global vaccine production and distribution so we can defeat this pandemic, together.”
Q: How do you expect the UK’s new interest in the Indo-Pacific to work on the ground/sea?
The landmark review of foreign policy the UK published earlier this year was very clear about how important the Indo-Pacific region is to the UK’s security and prosperity. India is, of course, an indispensable partner in that region and we are aligned with India in our global goals.
Later this year the UK’s Queen Elizabeth Aircraft Carrier – the largest and most technologically advanced vessel ever made in Britain’s shipyards – will sail to the region, including to India, to undertake joint exercises with the Indian navy. The carrier will visit west coast ports, expanding our interoperability and enhancing our ability to defend against shared threats- a tangible symbol of our commitment to the Indo-Pacific.
Of course we will look for ways to deepen our defence relationship further in the coming years, ensuring both our countries are fully equipped to tackle the range of challenges we face.
Q: India and UK are planning on declaring an Enhanced Trade Partnership. Is this a free trade agreement in disguise?
The Enhanced Trade Partnership agreed with Prime Minister Modi this week is a really important step. The Partnership will unlock new opportunities for Indian businesses in the UK and British businesses exporting and investing in India.
Our economic relationship is strong with trade already worth around £23 billion a year, supporting more than half a million jobs. The UK is already the largest European market for India’s goods exports.
The Enhanced Trade Partnership sets the ambition to double the value of UK-India trade by 2030 and declares our shared intent to begin negotiations on a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement by the end of this year.”
Q: What would be the highlight/focus of this trade partnership, given India is one of the largest investors in the UK already?
The ETP is about setting a clear direction for the future of the economic relationship between the UK and India. A relationship that I hope will be bolstered down the line by a full Free Trade Agreement.
This Enhanced Trade Partnership will resolve market access issues, boost exports and strengthen our trade relationship. It will lead to the removal of barriers to trade through a market access package and will result in new opportunities for everyone from Indian seafarers to nurses.
The commitments we have made to increase trade will create jobs in both the UK and India and help more brilliant Indian products get on the UK’s shelves and vice versa.”
Q: How will UK immigration reform impact India and Indians?
“Prime Minister Modi has spoken often about the ‘living bridge’ that exists between the UK and India. The close relationship between our countries ultimately comes down to our people and their shared values and culture.
One in fifty people in the UK have Indian ancestry and the contribution made by Indian diaspora in the UK speaks for itself.
India is already benefitting from the new points-based immigration system, which came into force at the beginning of this year. This new system will lead to even more brilliant and skilled people from India being able to study, work and live in the UK in future. It levels the playing field so that where you come from matters less than what you can bring. Indian student visas increased by over 40% last year, and Indian nationals account for nearly half of all UK skills work visas.
On the 1st of July, we will implement the new post-study Graduate Route, offering new opportunities to tens of thousands of Indian students to study in the UK’s fantastic universities and build a career in the UK afterwards. We have also made it easier for Indian professionals to work in the UK – and for Indian companies to hire the labour they need.
When we met, PM Modi and I discussed how to encourage Indian people to come to the UK, especially students and young professionals, and how to combat immigration crime – and were pleased to agree on a new mobility partnership that will look to achieve just that.”
Q: Are you pushing India to declare a “net zero” pledge on climate change?
India is already a world-leader on climate action, with an impressive target of 450GW of renewable energy by 2030. I’m proud that we’re already working hand in hand to tackle the devastating effects of climate change, through initiatives like the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.
Any progress we make in the face of this huge challenge, we will make together. That’s why as hosts of this year’s UN climate summit, COP26, we’re asking all countries to up their ambition on climate change. The science is clear. Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees to avoid catastrophic global warming means that globally we need to reach net zero emissions by 2050. In the UK we have found that setting a net zero target has helped drive action here and now, giving a clear signal to business that the future is low carbon.
Here in India, I think there is a unique opportunity to show the world that a new, clean development path is possible. An opportunity to be at the forefront of a new global green transition with all the benefits of jobs and cleaner air that brings.”
Q: What would you say are the drivers of a post-Brexit India-UK relationship?
The UK-India relationship is a modern partnership of equals, focused on the future.
As the UK’s landmark foreign policy review this year made clear, for the UK, the relationship with India is crucial to help address all the issues we care most about: tackling Covid, protecting against climate change, building back our economies. We have shared interests and together we are tackling shared threats.
India is a crucial voice on global issues – that is why I have invited Prime Minister Modi to attend the UK’s G7 summit this summer.”
Q: What does the post-roadmap relationship look like?
Over the next decade the UK and India will expand our relationship – a relationship that is much greater than the sum of its part.
That means taking tangible action on the most important areas of our relationship: tackling Covid, protecting against climate change, expanding free trade. But we will also work increasingly together on a huge swathe of issues – from lifesaving scientific research to world-beating education to next-generation technology.
I was pleased to lend my personal commitment to the UK-India relationship this week alongside Prime Minister Modi and I have every expectation that great things will continue to happen when the UK and India work together.”
Q: How are you re-assessing your relationship with China, particularly in the areas of technology and defence?
Our approach to China remains clear-eyed and rooted in our values and interests.
We have a strong and constructive relationship with China in many areas. China has to be part of the solution to any major global problem we face; whether ensuring we do not face another devastating global health crisis, supporting vulnerable countries or addressing climate change.
It’s always been the case that where we have concerns we raise them and take action – as we have done consistently over the human rights violations in Hong Kong and Xinjiang.”
Q: Covid seems to have interfered in two trips that you have been planning to India. When you do finally make it here, what would be the top things you would like to do?
I was very disappointed to have to postpone not one but two visits to India this year. But of course responding to the devastating impact of the coronavirus pandemic must come first and Prime Minister Modi and I agreed it was the right call to make.
I am hopeful that the situation will improve quickly so that people can return to their normal lives and I can visit your wonderful country again.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Modi and I continue to speak regularly – most recently earlier this week. I’m also very much looking forward to welcoming him to Cornwall for the UK’s G7 Summit this summer.”

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