External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday asserted that the focus of India and UK has been on five broad themes that will take the ties between the two nations to a higher level.

Addressing a joint press conference after the talks, Jaishankar said that the five themes are connecting people, trade and prosperity, defence and security, climate change and health.

“The focus has been on how to take our ties to a higher level. We focused on five broad themes–connecting people, trade and prosperity, defence & security, climate change and health,” said Jaishankar on talks with UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.

“We reviewed the situation in Afghanistan, the evolution of the Indo-Pacific and developments in the middle-east were among the subjects discussed. Challenges posed by terrorism and radicalism were a shared concern,” added Jaishankar.

He also said, “India has its vision of Indo-Pacific. It is a matter of satisfaction that there is today a growing recognition and acceptance of the idea of Indo-Pacific.”

On being asked about “free trade agreement with UK and India not signing RCEP”, he said, “I think you’re comparing apples and oranges. UK wasn’t part of the RCEP…our experiences on RCEP can’t carry over to discussion with UK…There’s a serious intent to take trade relationship forward.”

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will visit India in January to be the chief guest at the Republic Day Parade, Raab announced after holding talks with Jaishankar. Jaishankar said the two sides held four hours of discussion on a wide range of issues and focus has been on how to take the bilateral ties to a higher level.

“In recent years as you know, there have been very big changes in global politics and we both believe that our interests are better served by working together more effectively,” he said and added that important issues, including the situation in Afghanistan as also developments in Gulf and evolution of the Indo-Pacific region, were discussed.

Jaishankar said challenges posed by terrorism and radicalism which are shared concerns were also discussed during the talks. “Prime Minister Boris Johnson has invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi to join the UK-hosted G7 summit next year. The UK Prime Minister has also accepted the very generous invitation to attend India’s Republic Day celebrations (as a chief guest) in January which is a great honour,” Raab said.

On his part, Jaishankar said Johnson accepting the invitation for the Republic Day was, in a way, symbolic of a new era in Indo-UK ties.
Raab’s three-day visit to India from December 14-17 comes at a time the UK is holding complex negotiations with the European Union on reaching a post-Brexit trade deal.

In the wake of Brexit, the UK has been looking at ramping up trade with leading economies like India. There have been apprehensions that its separation from the European Union without a trade deal could severely cripple its financial markets and may have long-term implications for its economy.

The British foreign secretary is scheduled to meet Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar and Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal.
Raab will also travel to Bengaluru where he will meet Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa on December 17.

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