New Delhi: British Premier Boris Johnson on Friday said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had intervened many times to ask Russian President Vladimir Putin "what on earth he is doing" in Ukraine. And said it's clear India "wants the Russians out of Ukraine."
The two Prime Ministers held wide-ranging talks on bilateral ties and decided on a "new and expanded defence and security partnership" in "land, sea, air, space and cyber" including collaboration on maritime electric propulsion systems for ships and co-development of fighter aircraft, jet engines and sub-sea radars. This is in the wake of an open general export license created by Britain to slash timelines for India-specific defence procurement.
Wrapping up his two-day visit, the British PM at a separate media briefing referred to the historic ties between India and Russia and said everyone "understands and respects that." He also admitted, "India is not going to change that."
Johnson spoke about the "threats of (global) autocratic coercion whether it be Russia or China," adding that this was "obliging" Britain and India to work together more closely.
Speaking in the presence of his British counterpart after the talks, Modi said, "We stressed dialogue and diplomacy for an immediate ceasefire and resolution of the problem in Ukraine. We also reiterated the importance of respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries."
Both leaders reviewed the decade-long bilateral roadmap for ties decided by the two nations last year and embark on a 'Global Innovation Partnership' under which the two nations "will co-finance up to US $100 million for transfer and scaling-up of 'Made in India' innovations to third countries".
In the British PM's words, both nations also decided to jointly work on green technologies and the development of wind energy "from the Celtic Sea (off Britain) to Dhanushkodi (in southern Tamil Nadu) ".
Hailing India as a "great democracy" with "Constitutional protections" for all its citizens that is a "strong, shining fact" that makes the country very different from autocracies, Johnson said he had at the same time discussed certain tough questions on human rights with PM Modi and that both leaders have "conversations on human rights in a friendly and private way."
At a special MEA briefing in the afternoon, foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said, "Both leaders held detailed discussions on opportunities for defence collaborations, particularly co-development and co-production of advanced defence technologies, including in areas such as electric propulsion, modern fighter aircraft, jet engines, complex weapons, subsea radars, etc. In this context, they welcomed the establishment of a mechanism on maritime electric propulsion."
On Ukraine, foreign secretary Shringla told reporters that the British PM did not pressurise India, adding that the points of view of both sides was "greatly respected by either side."
A joint statement released by both nations said, "The leaders expressed in strongest terms their concern about the ongoing conflict and humanitarian situation in Ukraine. They unequivocally condemned civilian deaths, and reiterated the need for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a peaceful resolution of the conflict, which was having severe implications across the globe, in particular for developing countries. They emphasised that the contemporary global order has been built on the UN Charter, international law and respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. They reaffirmed their willingness to provide humanitarian aid for the people of Ukraine."
On attempts by pro-Khalistan extremists to create trouble in Britain, Johnson spoke about the setting up of an "anti-extremist task force" even as foreign secretary Shringla said Britain had assured "zero tolerance for such people who create issues that could impact on ties.
On the extradition of alleged economic offenders such as Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya, the British PM said he did not want economic offenders to use British law to evade trial in India but referred to certain "legal technical" issues that have so far made extradition "difficult".
In a clear but veiled reference to China, the Joint Statement said, "They (the two leaders) underlined their shared vision of an open, free, inclusive and rules-based Indo-Pacific region in which countries are free from military, economic, and political coercion. They committed to work together with partners and relevant regional organisations who share this vision, to promote respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, rule of law, transparency, freedom of navigation and overflight, the centrality of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, unimpeded lawful commerce, and peaceful resolution of disputes."
On Covid and other health sector cooperation, both Prime Ministers "recalled the highly successful collaboration on the AstraZeneca/Oxford University Vaccine with the Serum Institute of India (SII) and agreed to closely work together to strengthen the global response to future health emergencies and advance the ambitious plan to develop vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics in 100 days, including on vaccine development".
After talks between the two leaders at the Hyderabad House in the Capital, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his presence as his "khaas dost" (special friend), adding that in "challenging times, it is important that the 'khaas dosts' get closer.
Both leaders also pushed for a free-open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. Lavishing praise on the welcome he received in Gujarat earlier on Thursday, Johnson said he felt like (cricket legend) Sachin Tendulkar and (cinema legend) Amitabh Bachhan. He referred to Modi by his first name, Narendra.
Praising his British counterpart, Modi said, "This may be his first visit to India as Prime Minister, but as an old friend of India, he knows and understands India very well. For the past several years, Prime Minister Johnson has played a very important role in strengthening the relations between India and the UK…. 1.6 million people of Indian origin living in the UK are making positive contributions to the society and every sector of the economy. We are proud of their achievements. And we want to strengthen this living bridge further. Prime Minister Johnson has personally contributed a lot in this direction. I congratulate him for this."