BRITISH Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has cancelled his delayed trip to India next week, his first major foreign visit since taking power in 2019, due to the coronavirus surge in the South Asian nation.
Johnson’s visit, which was being held as part of a post-Brexit trade drive, was originally due to be four days long, with the British leader flying out on April 25 and officially starting his visit the next day.
Johnson will instead speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi later this month to launch their plans for the future UK-India partnership, with their physical meeting expected later in the year.
“In the light of the current coronavirus situation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not be able to travel to India next week,” Downing Street said in a joint statement on behalf of the British and Indian governments.
“Instead, Prime Ministers Modi and Johnson will speak later this month to agree and launch their ambitious plans for the future partnership between the UK and India. They will remain in regular contact beyond this, and look forward to meeting in person later this year,” the statement said.
Pressure had been mounting on Johnson to call off the visit amid growing concerns of a new variant of COVID-19 detected in the country. Over the weekend, United Kingdom Opposition Labour Party joined calls for him to conduct the discussions remotely via Zoom and cancel the physical visit, which had already been shortened to focus on a day-long packed schedule on Monday, April 26.
Both sides were to agree on a ‘Roadmap 2030’ for re-energised India-UK relations across trade and investment and climate action, which is now likely to be signed off remotely later this month.
The visit, previously postponed from a Republic Day tour in January, was to be the first major bilateral visit for Johnson outside Europe since the UK general election in December 2019 and the conclusion of the Brexit transition period at the end of December 2020.ax