Relations between the United Kingdom and India will remain on an “unprecedented upward trajectory” under Indian-origin UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, that country’s former prime minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday.
The two countries need each other now more than ever because “we live in dangerous and turbulent times”, he said.
Johnson called on the two countries to finalize a free trade agreement, saying he cannot wait until next Diwali for it.
“The mission I have led was not as successful in April this year, when I reached Gujarat and was greeted like Sachin Tendulkar. There were pictures of me everywhere and literally thousands of people dancing in the streets,” Johnson said in his address at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here.
Noting that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and he had discussed the future of the India-UK partnership during his visit to India, Johnson said they had a “great conversation” and it has yielded results.
“India has become the number one supplier of overseas students to the UK. There are 108,000 Indian students in the UK to support our education industry.
The former British Prime Minister pointed out that even without a free trade agreement, the two countries have seen a 28 percent increase in bilateral trade.
“Let us finally deliver that FTA that has mysteriously developed a flat tire since I left office. Prime Minister Modi and I said it would happen by Diwali. Before we get that FTA Not going to wait till next Diwali. I wonder what the holdup is,” Johnson said.
“The government that I am proud to lead boasts of more ministers who trace their origins to India than any other government in the world. The biggest achievement from my point of view is that my replacement is of Indian origin himself,” he said.
Last month, after the brief tenure of Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak was installed as Britain’s first Indian-origin prime minister, taking over after Johnson stepped down.
“I know that under Rishi, this relationship, so strong and so dynamic, is going to follow the same unprecedented upward trajectory. We need each other now more than ever because, as PM Modi and his foreign ministers S Jaishankar said, we are living in dangerous and turbulent times,” Johnson said.
The former British prime minister also slammed Russian President Vladimir Putin for his “vile and unprovoked invasion” of Ukraine.
“Even if the UK and India were not drawn together by bonds of love, feelings, family, trade, commerce…if we were not bound together by economic self-interest, we would be drawn together by the fervor and vital reason that we The two democracies are forced to face the irresponsible and sometimes dangerous treatment of the world’s coercive autocracy,” he said.
Taking aim at Putin, Johnson made three predictions. He said, “Putin will lose and he will lose…Putin will be defeated by the love of the people of Ukraine and the simple heroism of the country.”
Stating that the conflict was a “disastrous advertisement” for Putin’s “war machine”, he said Russia’s exports of military equipment would be badly hit.
He predicted that this disastrous miscalculation of Putin would seriously undermine Russia and greatly strengthen China.
“Bear is looking increasingly sad and has been pushed around by a giant, vocal kung fu panda,” he said.
The former British prime minister also lauded India-UK cooperation in providing the world with vaccines against Covid and compared the successful handling of the pandemic in democracies such as the UK and India to “autocracy” such as China.