UK Foreign Secy calls on Modi; Discusses ties post-Brexit, new 'vaccines hub' to be set up to help in shared fight against coronavirus

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New Delhi, Dec 16 (PTI) British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday and discussed the vast potential of the India-UK partnership in the post-Brexit world, and launching of a 'vaccines hub' which will share best practice for clinical trials and foster innovation besides helping in shared fight against coronavirus.

In a tweet after the meeting, Modi said he was looking forward to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson's visit to India to be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day celebrations next month.

'Excellent meeting with Dominic Raab, UK Secretary of State of FCDOGovUK. Discussed the vast potential of the India-UK partnership in the post-COVID, post-BREXIT world,' Modi tweeted.

A UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office statement said the British Foreign Secretary met Prime Minister Modi to discuss the UK and India working together 'as a force for good and launching the pioneering new vaccines hub which will share best practice for regulation and clinical trials, and foster innovation.' According to the statement, Raab also announced that 'experts from India and the UK will join forces through a new virtual hub to deliver vaccines for coronavirus and other deadly viruses'.

Raab, during his meeting with Modi, also pitched for a closer UK-India relationship as part of a wider UK focus on our partnerships in the Indo-Pacific, according to the statement.

They also spoke about the 10-year roadmap which heralds a new era for the UK and India with an ambitious plan for an 'Enhanced Trade Partnership', the statement from the British side said.

Welcoming the UK and India’s collaboration on tackling coronavirus, the British foreign secretary praised Prime Minister Modi's commitment to equitable global access to vaccines.

Later, Raab also visited a Delhi health clinic where Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines will be administered.

India's Serum Institute is poised to make over a billion doses of the coronavirus vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca. Unlike other vaccines, it can be stored at normal fridge temperatures, making it easier and cheaper to produce and keep – and distribute around the world.

'This Serum Institute and Oxford University partnership demonstrates the UK-India relationship at its best: a vaccine developed in the UK and made in India, drawing our brightest minds together to save lives as a global force for good,' Raab was quoted as saying by the statement.

'A global pandemic requires a global solution. Scientific cooperation has made breakthroughs on coronavirus vaccines at record-breaking pace and the UK-India vaccine hub will now build on these innovations, to bring this crisis to an end and protect us all against future pandemics,' he said.

Millions of the doses made by the Serum Institute will be distributed to the world's poorest people via the global COVAX initiative, in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO) and Gavi, the vaccine alliance, the British statement said.

The UK has championed equitable access to any coronavirus vaccine for those who need it and has committed up to 619 million pounds to COVAX to secure both the UK’s access to coronavirus vaccines and distribute COVID-19 vaccines across the world.

India supplies more than 50 per cent of the world's vaccines and 25 per cent of the National Health Service's generic drugs. Closer UK-India cooperation on medicines and vaccines approvals will ensure speedy access for the UK to Indian-produced pharmaceuticals and help safeguard future supplies to the NHS, the statement said.

The new hub will enable British and Indian experts to share knowledge on clinical trials and regulatory approvals and get vaccines to people who need them most in a safe, secure and energy-efficient way, it said.

It will protect the UK and India by enhancing cooperation on the development and distribution of coronavirus vaccines, better aligning the international regulation of vaccines and fostering partnerships to develop innovation ‘moonshots’ that can define vaccine delivery over the next decade and beyond.

During the second day of his three-day visit, Raab also met Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal and agreed to work together on mutual recognition of academic qualifications, starting with master’s degrees, over the next year, the UK statement said.

The Foreign Secretary welcomed the signing of a new agreement between the University of Edinburgh and Gujarat government to open a new biotechnology university in the state in July 2021. This will be the first foreign university collaboration of its kind in India, the statement said.

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. PTI ASK PYK PYK