British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under mounting pressure to cancel his April 25 visit to India, which is battling a surge in Covid. The opposition Labour Party has questioned why Mr Johnson cannot meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi online to discuss bilateral relations.
“The Government is telling people don’t travel if you don’t have to absolutely travel and I can’t see why the Prime Minister can’t conduct his business with the Indian government by Zoom. So many of us do that these days and I think the Prime Minister, all of us in public life, need to try and set an example so I’d much rather the Prime Minister did it by Zoom than by travelling to India,” said Labour Party’s Shadow Communities Secretary Steve Reed.
Sources have indicated that the UK Prime Minister is keen to keep his appointment with PM Modi. The visit, previously postponed from a Republic Day tour in January, is the first major bilateral visit by Britain’s PM outside Europe since the UK general election in December 2019 and the conclusion of the Brexit transition period at the end of December 2020.
Mr Johnson is set to agree on a Roadmap 2030 for re-energised India-UK relations cutting across trade and investment, technological collaboration and climate action, the Indian High Commission in London said in a statement on Thursday. Earlier, Downing Street had confirmed that due to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis in India, the UK PM has decided to shorten the length of his planned visit, and conclude his meetings in one day – on Monday, the 26th of April.
Questions are being asked on why India is not already on the travel ‘red list’ of the UK. For anyone traveling from any of the 39 nations in the ‘red list’, including Brazil and Pakistan, a hotel quarantine of 10 days is a must. Scientists have warned that Britain could be staring at a third wave of Covid cases if necessary precautions were not in place, even as the country is coming out of a prolonged second lockdown in phases. Non-essential shops, pubs, hair salons only recently opened after three months of closure on April 12. People are only allowed to socialize outdoors for a meal or a drink outside a pub. Indoor entertainment places continue to remain closed.
The double mutant virus is of particular concern to scientists. Danny Altmann, an immunology professor at Imperial College, in an interview to the BBC news said, “I think we should be terribly concerned about the double mutant virus. They (variants of concern) are things that can most scupper our escape plan at the moment and give us a third wave. They are a worry.”
A recent statement from the High Commission of India indicated that the trip is still on. “The visit of PM Johnson is expected to positively transform the partnership across the wide-spectrum of issues and areas relating to Defence and Security, the Indo-Pacific and Western Indian Ocean Region (WIOR), Trade and Investments, Health care, Climate Change and people-to-people connect. India and the UK are set to agree on a Roadmap 2030 for future relations. The 2030 vision is for revitalised and dynamic connect between people; re-energised trade, investment and technological collaboration; enhanced defence and security cooperation and closer engagement on regional issues Including the Indian Ocean Region and the Indo-Pacific. The India-UK Partnership in Climate Action, clean energy and health care is geared for mutual benefit and a better world,” said the statement.