Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (UK), has cancelled his visit to India, scheduled for later this month, news agency Reuters reported on Tuesday (January 5). Johnson was earlier scheduled to travel to India on January 26 as the chief guest of the Republic Day parade in New Delhi, at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
According to the news agency, Johnson cancelled the planned trip to India later this month, citing the need to oversee the pandemic response back home at the UK.
The UK Government, in an official statement, said that Boris Johnson had spoken to Prime Minister Narendra Modi this morning, expressing 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, Johnson said that it was important for him to remain in the UK so he can focus on the domestic response to the virus, the government statement detailed.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that he hopes to be able to visit India in the first half of 2021, and ahead of the UK’s G7 Summit that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to attend as a guest, it said.
The development comes amid a rising alarm over the new coronavirus strain in the UK and a renewed rise in the number of cases. Several in the political quarters had projected that the leader's visit could be a cause of concern for New Delhi.
Even amid rising fears over the mutant COVID-19 strain, the Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had on last week confirmed the visit of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the Republic Day parade.
When asked if British PM's visit to India is on schedule despite the restrictions after a new strain of coronavirus was detected in the UK, MEA spokesperson confirmed his visit and said, "We look forward to welcoming the British PM here."
However, the current developments suggest that the cries of concern have finally hit their mark, with the British Prime Minister cancelling his visit to India.
For a while now, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy had been raising his concerns over the Republic Day parade scheduled for later this month. Three days ago, he cited media reports, which state that 150 Army jawans have contracted the coronavirus while in Delhi during rehearsal for the Republic Day parade.
For this and other such incidents which are "too tragic to report", Swamy has been requesting Prime Minister Modi to cancel the Republic Day parade this year. This, he said, will come as a relief for the UK PM as well, since Johnson would then not have to leave London in the midst of Brexit.