Taking a leap into the future amid a festering Covid crisis in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Boris Johnson are set to launch Roadmap 2030 – a defining document that will lay out a decadal vision for across-the-board upscaling and transformation of the India-UK relations.
The digital summit, which was decided upon after Mr Johnson had to cancel his visit to India last month due to a sharp spike in Covid infections in India, will also culminate in a vision document outlining areas of convergence between India and the UK in the Indo-Pacific.
“A comprehensive Roadmap 2030 will be launched during the Summit, which will pave the way for further expanding and deepening India-UK cooperation over the next decade across five key areas, namely people-to-people relationship, trade and prosperity, defence and security, climate action and healthcare,” said India’s Ministry of External Affairs in a statement ahead of the India-UK summit.
The ‘Roadmap 2030’ vision, which will be unveiled by the two prime ministers, will seek to forge a post-Brexit India-UK strategic partnership that will be in tune with new geopolitical and geo-economic realities. This blueprint will position the UK as one of India’s key strategic partners for the next decade. The roadmap has been firmed up against the backdrop of growing perception in some influential sections in the UK that European countries such as Germany, France and the Netherlands have surpassed the UK as New Delhi’s leading economic and strategic partner.
The two sides are also expected to unveil Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP), which could pave the way for a full-fledged Free Trade Agreement (FTA) in the future. The virtual interaction between the two leaders will provide the much-needed political push for launching negotiation for the India-UK FTA. The ETP is seen by both sides as a low-hanging fruit and its real value lies in prodding both sides to seal FTA in the near future.
The ETP will include, among other things, pharmaceuticals, fintech, chemicals, petroleum and food products. Fintech offers huge opportunities for Indian companies, especially after Brexit.
A key highlight of virtual summit discussions on May 4 will be the strategic call by the two sides to enhance partnership in the Indo-Pacific. The Indo-Pacific is acquiring greater salience in London’s foreign policy world view. This has been reflected in the UK’s once-in-a-generation Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign policy. India has a pivotal place in the UK’s Indo-Pacific plans. Significantly, the UK Prime Minister had announced that he will travel to India to “strengthen (UK’s) ties with the world’s largest democracy” while presenting the Integrated Review in Parliament.
With the UK set to host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow in November 2021, the digital summit meeting will also see focused discussions on raising the ambition for emission reduction along with enhanced financial support and sharing of technologies for mitigation. The UK has joined and supported India’s initiative of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI).
Given the sheer scale and intensity of the coronavirus pandemic in India, the digital summit will focus a great deal on accelerating bilateral cooperation in the Covid-related areas such as supply of ventilators and oxygen. Ahead of the digital summit, the British foreign office said that two leaders will agree on a “huge range of commitments” to deepen cooperation, including in fighting the pandemic, during their summit. The UK is planning to send 1,000 more ventilators from its surplus stocks to support India’s Covid-19 response to deal with a second wave of infections. This will reinforce an earlier commitment by the UK to send 200 ventilators, 495 oxygen concentrators and three large oxygen generation units.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.