Prime Minister Narendra Modi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at Hyderabad House (Pic: IANS)
Notwithstanding India’s clear message to the world that it will be guided by its strategic autonomy, China is keeping a close watch on the developments in India amid UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ongoing visit. The British Prime Minister will discuss issues related to bilateral trade and security with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as India and the UK are also expected to begin negotiations for a free trade agreement.
Johnson’s visit comes a few weeks after UK’s foreign secretary Liz Truss’s trip to India. Interestingly Johnson’s visit will be followed by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s trip to New Delhi next week. Von der Leyen’s visit to India is the first since she took charge in 2019.
“With such engagements, it is natural for not only China but the world at large to monitor the developments in India as pressure builds on New Delhi to condemn Russia for its Ukraine invasion,” an insider said.
Even as it is almost certain that India will not give up its independent foreign policy, the visits and their outcomes are being scrutinised with a fine toothcomb.
So far, on the issues related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, India and China have been more or less on the same page.
“These high-profile visits could have implications on the geopolitical contours of the Indo-Pacific region which would be of immense interest to China. Though India has made its stand clear — that it will carve out its own independent foreign policy, China will be curious especially as it holds the chair for the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) block,” Anil Trigunayat, former ambassador and Distinguished Fellow at Vivekananda International Foundation told India Narrative. The BRICS countries have taken a similar stand on the Russia-Ukraine issue.
“Besides, China is interested in the European market while India will seek clarity on the UK's position on China and Pakistan,” Trigunayat added.
The UK is also part of the trilateral security pact AUKUS. Besides UK, Australia and the US are part of AUKUS.
“There has been close cooperation between India and Western countries. But India is not the vassal of the latter. As a proud developing country, India seeks respect from its partners, rather than being pressed or ordered by others,” Beijing based Global Times said, adding that New Delhi “has won the space for independent diplomacy.”
Earlier in the month, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi made a surprise low key stop over in New Delhi just before the visit of Daleep Singh, US’ deputy national security adviser for international economics, also the chief architect of the sanctions imposed against Russia. Interestingly Singh’s visit was almost around the same time when Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov was in New Delhi. Nepalese Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba too visited New Delhi in the first week of April. Last month, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida paid a visit to India, when he announced massive investment plans.
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