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Boris Johnson is planning a springtime trip to India to tout Britain’s vaccine success and push for progress on deepening trade relations after Brexit.
The visit will be the Prime Minister’s first official overseas trip in a year after the Covid-19 pandemic has kept him at home.
Mr Johnson had initially planned his Indian tour in January but that was cancelled as the emergence of Covid variants sent the country into lockdown again before Christmas.
The visit will happen before the G7 meeting of world leaders in Cornwall in June, with Mr Johnson possibly flying out as early as next month.
While specifics of the visit are still being confirmed, Mr Johnson is expected to visit Delhi and possibly Pune, a sprawling city in the west of India.
It is there that the Serum Institute – which has produced more than a billion shots of Covid-19 vaccines – is located.
A visit would allow Mr Johnson to put the spotlight on an area of major UK success in the fight against the pandemic – the vaccine rollout. Tories hope their performance on that front – 40 per cent of the UK adult population has now had a jab – will bring a political boost for the May local elections.
Whitehall is also working to line up a string of trade wins that the Prime Minister can announce during his trip.
A free trade deal with India is one of the top priorities of Liz Truss, the International Trade Secretary, as she tries to map out Britain’s post-Brexit trade policy.
She is understood to be calling her Indian counterpart every week in an attempt to speed up talks, which are expected to go on throughout the year.
New business deals and possible improvements in Britain’s access to Indian markets are being pursued with an eye to being announced during the trip.
Government officials are also looking into whether they can take advantage of booming interest in whisky in India to help sell more Scotch.
The Prime Minister is also expected to make a visit to Washington this year to see Joe Biden, who was inaugurated as US president in January, but a date is yet to be announced.