British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to help move India away from its dependence on Russia by expanding economic and defense ties when he meets with his Indian counterpart Friday, officials said.
Johnson is also expected to bring up the situation in Ukraine during talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Our relations have never been as strong or as good between us as they are now,’’ Johnson told reporters at a ceremonial reception in the forecourt of the presidential palace in New Delhi on Friday.
Soon after his arrival in India on Thursday, Johnson said he was aware of the close ties that India and Russia have shared.
“We have to reflect that reality. But clearly, I’ll be talking about it to Narendra Modi,” he told reporters in Ahmedabad, the capital of western Gujarat state, where he landed.
Modi has called the situation in Ukraine “very worrying” and has appealed to both sides for peace. While India has condemned the killings of civilians in Ukraine, it has so far not criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin, and abstained when the U.N. General Assembly voted this month to suspend Russia from the Human Rights Council.
Modi has also responded coolly to pressure from U.S. President Joe Biden and others to curb imports of Russian oil in response to the invasion.
Johnson said in a statement Friday, “The world faces growing threats from autocratic states which seek to undermine democracy, choke off free and fair trade and trample on sovereignty.”
“Our collaboration on the issues that matter to both our countries, from climate change to energy security and defense, is of vital importance as we look to the future,” he said.
A British High Commission statement on Friday said Britain is expected to offer next-generation defense and security collaboration across five domains – land, sea, air, space and cyber – to face complex new threats.
This includes support for new Indian-designed and -built fighter jets, offering the best of British know-how on building aircraft. Britain will also seek to support India’s requirements for new technology to identify and respond to threats in the Indian Ocean, the statement said.
Johnson will also discuss with Modi new cooperation on clean and renewable energy, aimed at supporting India’s energy transition away from imported oil and increasing its resilience through secure and sustainable energy, and addressing climate change in both Britain and India, the statement said.
India receives relatively little of its oil from Russia, but ramped up purchases recently because of discounted prices. India is a major buyer of Russian weapons, and recently purchased advanced Russian air defense systems.
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