British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has accepted India's "very generous" invite to be the Republic Day chief guest at next month's celebrations in Delhi, UK's Foreign Secretary said today, calling it "a great honour". This will be Boris Johnson's "first major bilateral visit" since he took charge last year, his office highlighted.
"I am absolutely delighted to be visiting India next year at the start of an exciting year for Global Britain, and look forward to delivering the quantum leap in our bilateral relationship that Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi and I have pledged to achieve," the British PM said in a statement.
He is only the second British leader since India's independence to attend the Republic Day parade in Delhi as guest of honour after John Major in 1993.
Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said his presence at the annual celebrations "would be in a way symbolic of a new era, and a new phase of India-UK ties".
Boris Johnson has also invited PM Modi to join the G7 summit next year in Britain, said UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab; India would be one of the three guest countries. Mr Raab reached Delhi this morning for a four-day India visit, and was welcomed by the Foreign Minister.
"I'm pleased that PM Boris Johnson has invited PM Modi to join the UK-hosted G7 summit next year. The British PM has also accepted the very generous invitation to attend India's Republic Day celebrations in January, which is a great honour," he said this afternoon.
"The UK Foreign Secretary comes at a very important time because we are looking at a post-COVID world and also looking at a post-Brexit world from the perspective of the UK. This is the right time for us to hold discussions," S Jaishankar said on Dominic Raab's visit.
The British PM "will use his visit to India to boost cooperation in areas that matter to the UK and that will be priorities for our international engagement throughout 2021 - from trade and investment, to defence and security, and health and climate change," his office said.
"The UK and India are significant investors and markets for each other's economies and our growing trade and investment relationship is worth around 24 billion pounds a year, supporting more than half a million jobs There are 842 Indian companies in the UK with a combined turnover of 41.2 billion pounds, creating jobs in all four corners of the United Kingdom," it added.
Calling India "an increasingly indispensable partner for the United Kingdom", Boris Johnson described the country as "pharmacy of the world" in remarks that assume significance at a time when the fight against coronavirus is raging.
"As the 'pharmacy of the world' India supplies more than 50 per cent of the world's vaccines, with over a billion doses of the UK's Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine being manufactured at India's Serum Institute in Pune," he said.
The United Kingdom cleared Pfizer's vaccine earlier this month. In India, three vaccine makers, including American firm Pfizer, recently approached the drug controller DCGI for emergency approval.