LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday (Apr 19) cancelled a planned trip to India, scheduled to take place next week, due to the current coronavirus situation in India, Johnson’s office said.
It had initially been scheduled for January and heralded as an opportunity for Britain to refocus its international trade policy in the wake of Brexit as it pursues a so-called “global Britain” strategy.
Surging infections in India – where officials have recorded five consecutive days of more than 200,000 cases – have led to the trip’s entire cancellation.
A week-long lockdown will be imposed in Delhi from Monday night to try to contain a spike in cases that have overstretched city hospitals.
Johnson’s visit was aimed at strengthening trade ties, investment and cooperation in various areas, including defence, security, health and climate change.
It followed an invitation from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who took part in a climate summit hosted by London earlier this year.
“In the light of the current coronavirus situation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not be able to travel to India next week,” a joint statement from the British and Indian government, released by Johnson’s office, said.
“Instead, Prime Ministers Modi and Johnson will speak later this month to agree and launch their ambitious plans for the future partnership between the UK and India.
“They will remain in regular contact beyond this, and look forward to meeting in person later this year.”
Relations with India are seen as a key component of both Britain’s post-Brexit ambitions to reinvigorate trade with countries outside the European Union, and a diplomatic push to gain more influence in the Indo-Pacific region.
Britain has invited India to attend the Group of Seven summit it is hosting in June.
British health officials said on Sunday they were investigating a COVID-19 variant originating in India, but as yet they did not have enough evidence to classify it is as a variant of concern.