UK prime minister Boris Johnson is expected to meet India’s leader Narendra Modi in early 2021, it was suggested during the annual Conservative Friends of India conference on Monday (6).
According to India’s high commissioner to the UK, Gaitri Issar Kumar, Johnson is planning to travel to India next year to meet Modi. The pair were initially expected to meet in March, but plans were delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“We are led by two leaders who have a shared vision and enjoy a rapport,” Kumar told guests on Monday evening. “We are working for a visit by Boris Johnson to India in early 2021.”
The event, held virtually for the first time, welcomed a number of speakers including culture secretary Oliver Dowden who said he saw “much symmetry” between the UK and India.
“When I look to our special relationship with India, there are so many ways in which we are working together and I look forward to continue co-operating in that relationship,” he said.
Lord Tariq Ahmad, minister for South Asia and the Commonwealth at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, emphasised the contribution of British Indians during the on-going coronavirus crisis. He thanked them for their “phenomenal” role on the frontline, paying tribute to the sacrifices they had made.
Lord Ahmad also touched upon the contribution and achievements of the diaspora within all aspects of British life, including the NHS, politics, public life and sport.
“In every square of British life, you will see British Indians excelling to the top and it is a reflection not just of the hard work and immense opportunities that were presented, but the incredible diversity of our country today,” the minister said.
MP for Harrow East, Bob Blackman, spoke of the “gifts given to the UK from India”, including the art of yoga. The MP noted the NHS had incorporated the spiritual practice into its service, helping to encourage fitness and wellbeing.
“We’ve also learned that actually shaking hands is a very dangerous thing during this pandemic, so now we have the greeting from India to express peace and harmony and tranquillity in a safe environment,” he said, referring to the “Namaste” greeting which has been used by Prince Charles in recent times.
Blackman, who was awarded India’s fourth-highest civilian award Padma Shri earlier this year, said the UK had a “tremendous opportunity” to do trade within the subcontinent now that it has left the European Union.
“India has been trying to do a trade deal with the EU for more than 20 years, without any success whatsoever,” he explained. “As we are now a free independent trading nation, we now have that opportunity to formulate that (relationship).”
Chaired by councillor Ameet Jogia, the online conference was attended by a range of speakers, including West Midlands mayor Andy Street; Brandon Lewis MP, secretary of state for Northern Ireland; Amanda Miller MP, party chairman; businessman Lord Rami Ranger; Conservative life peer Lord Dolar Popat; Conservative London mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey and CF India co-chair Reena Ranger.