Matt Hancock announces India's addition to COVID-19 'red list'
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The trip was postponed indefinitely on Monday as the coronavirus crisis deepened in India and concerns grew over a new variant hitting the nation, which has now been added to the UK’s travel “red list”. However, the Prime Minister stressed he planned to hold a call with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi ahead of a rescheduling “as and when circumstances allow”.
Gaurav Singh, co-founder of venture capitalist firm JPIN VCATS, said the dream of a bilateral agreement he believes could be worth between £50million and a £100million to the UK economy was very much alive despite the setback.
He said: “Communication between the British Prime Minister and his Indian counterpart is of vital importance to both nations due to the hope that a Free Trade Agreement can be negotiated.
“While decision was quite rightly taken not to physically travel due to the rise in COVID-19 cases throughout the subcontinent, I hope a productive conversation can still be had around easing trade barriers and ensuring prosperity for both nations.
“In times of this potential crisis, international cooperation is incredibly important.”
Mr Singh added: “It has often been said that it is a global approach that will be the way out of this Pandemic, and so the ability to communicate and discuss ideas is vital.
“Out of all the incredible opportunities throughout the world, India stands out for the British government, business leaders, and investors – and for good reason, and to ensure a continued symbiotic relationship, the FTA should be put down on paper as soon as possible.
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“The Silk Road has been the world’s most important trade route for millennia, and all the forecasts point to it only becoming more important as emerging economies, particularly India, grow exponentially.”
India is regarded as arguably the most promising of the world’s emerging economies,
With its population of 1.4 billion people, India produces 25 percent of the world’s engineers, and by 2025, there will be one billion internet users according to Atlas VPN, leaving it in good shape to become a 21st century economic powerhouse.
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Explaining his decision, Mr Johnson said it had been inevitable in the circumstances.
He said: ”Narendra Modi and I have basically come to the conclusion that, very sadly, I won’t be able to go ahead with the trip.
“I do think it’s only sensible to postpone given what’s happened in India, the shape of the pandemic there.”
The Prime Minister insisted UK-India relations are of “huge importance” and said he would speak to Mr Modi on Monday, while “we’ll be trying to do as much as we can virtually”.
He added: “Of course it will be frustrating, but we’ll try and replicate as much as we can remotely, and then look forward to doing it in person, as and when circumstances allow and hopefully before the COP summit in November, and hopefully we’ll get Narendra Modi over for the G7 in June.”
Mr Johnson’s visit – aimed at fostering close ties as part of Britain’s foreign policy “tilt” towards the Indo-Pacific – was first scheduled for January.
However it was delayed as a result of the UK’s winter wave of infections.
A four-day trip was then scheduled to start on Monday before being cut back last week to just one day in Delhi.
Labour’s shadow communities secretary Steve Reed had been among those saying it should be cancelled altogether.
Downing Street issued a joint statement from the British and Indian governments, saying the two prime ministers would instead “launch their ambitious plans for the future partnership between the UK and India” later this month.
They “look forward to meeting in person later this year”, the statement added.
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