Boris Johnson cancels Republic Day visit to India over COVID-19 crisis in U.K.

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U.K. PM Boris Johnson was supposed to be the Chief Guest of India’s Republic Day celebrations

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has cancelled his planned India visit for the last week of January when he was to be the Chief Guest of the Republic Day festivities. 

In a press release issued on Tuesday, the UK Foreign Office said the decision to cancel the visit was taken in view of the pandemic which has escalated in the United Kingdom because of the new variant of the coronavirus.

Also read: Coronavirus | U.K. PM Boris Johnson announces nationwide lockdown

“The Prime Minister spoke to Prime Minister Modi this morning, to express his regret that he will be unable to visit India later this month as planned. In light of the national lockdown announced last night, and the speed at which the new coronavirus variant is spreading, the Prime Minister said that it was important for him to remain in the UK so he can focus on the domestic response to the virus,” a press statement from 10 Downing Street said.

A statement from the Ministry of External Affairs informed the two PMs reviewed ongoing cooperation between the  both sides especially in the field of countering the pandemic. “Prime Minister expressed his understanding of the exceptional situation in the UK, and conveyed his best wishes for the quick control of the pandemic spread,” the release stated.

The visit had been confirmed by UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab during a joint press interaction here with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in December 2020. The visit was portrayed as one of the biggest post-Brexit outreach by Mr. Johnson. Both sides had also undertaken preparatory steps for the same. 

The United Kingdom appointed a new High Commissioner to India just hours before the cancellation of Mr. Johnson’s visit was announced. The UK Foreign Office had announced that Alex Ellis, who had served till recently as the Deputy National Security Adviser of Boris Johnson government, would be the new High Commissioner to India.

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