UK's Boris Johnson to visit India next week amid Russia-Ukraine war

Political commentators in India say Ukraine will figure in talks, but New Delhi unlikely to change its 'independent stance' on war.

UK's Boris Johnson to visit India next week amid Russia-Ukraine war

Amid the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will pay a visit to India this week, the Indian Foreign Ministry said on Sunday.

The ministry said Johnson will visit India at the invitation of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the premiers will hold bilateral consultations during the two-day visit.

"India and the United Kingdom enjoy a long and historical relationship which was elevated to a comprehensive strategic partnership during the India-UK Virtual Summit in 2021," said a ministry statement.

Johnson’s visit comes at a time when India’s stance on the Ukraine war has led to a flurry of visits by dignitaries from around the world.

Since Russia declared war on Ukraine on Feb. 24, New Delhi has called for a peaceful solution to the crisis but refrained from openly criticizing Moscow.

The UK, on the other side, has imposed economic sanctions on Russia and also supplied weapons to Ukraine.

Ahead of his visit, Johnson on Sunday said in a statement that "as we face threats to our peace and prosperity from autocratic states, it is vital that democracies and friends stick together," in what is likely a veiled reference to Ukraine.

"India, as a major economic power and the world’s largest democracy, is a highly valued strategic partner for the UK in these uncertain times," he said, adding that his visit to India "will deliver on the things that really matter to the people of both our nations – from job creation and economic growth to energy security and defence."

Autonomous stand

Gurjit Singh, a former Indian diplomat, told Anadolu Agency that India has an "autonomous stand" on Ukraine that "looks at the issue from all sides."

"India is on the side of peace and reconciliation. That is appreciated by all sides and they are looking at us to see how we can contribute towards the building of the post-Ukraine, post-pandemic situation," he said.

Vivek Mishra, a fellow at the Observer Research Foundation think tank in New Delhi, told Anadolu Agency that the Ukraine issue would definitely be on the agenda.

"The US and other Western countries are trying in the spirit of consolidation to push India so that it may cross the line and take a stand on Ukraine. Therefore, Ukraine will definitely figure in” the talks, he said.

"The UK will definitely convey to India that it must take steps to tell Russia to cease hostilities, but India will make its position very clear that there are compulsions and strategies and because of this, any stand against one country or another is not possible."

India is unlikely to change its independent stance on Ukraine, he argued.

"At the same time, India is very concerned about the evolving situation and is clearly not appreciative of any one country’s actions in Ukraine," said Mishra.