India-UK ties, symbolic of a new era! Both nations agree on a roadmap to broaden ties; focus on maritime security

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December 16, 2020 12:51 PM

At the end of the talks, both countries have agreed on a 10-year roadmap and discussed how to “take their ties forward” in a post-Brexit era.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (Photo source: Reuters)

The British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is going to be the chief guest at the Republic Day Celebrations in 2021. This was announced in New Delhi by the visiting UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. At the end of the talks, both countries have agreed on a 10-year roadmap and discussed how to “take their ties forward” in a post-Brexit era.

At the end of a four-hour discussion with external affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday, Mr Raab told the media at a joint press conference that the Prime Minister Boris Johnson has accepted the invitation to be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day Parade in January 2021. The UK PM has also invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a guest country at the G-7 Summit next year.

Today’s talks were focused on enhancing defence and maritime cooperation. Next year the UK is also planning to operate HMS Queen Elizabeth Carrier Strike Group in the Indo-Pacific region. In response to a question, Mr Raab said, “You can expect the UK to be more active and energetic, especially, as have been talking about this Indo-Pacific tilt.”

Indo-Pacific Strategy

The visiting secretary in his opening statement said that by next year the UK will come out with a strategic review. This Strategic Review is expected to spell out the approach of the UK towards the concept of Indo-Pacific, where India is going to feature prominently. There is huge economic potential for a period of 20-30 years in the Indo-Pacific Region according to Mr Raab.

The concept of Indo-Pacific is an articulation of globalization – S Jaishankar

Welcoming the greater attention of the UK towards Indo-Pacific, the external affairs minister S Jaishankar expressed India’s satisfaction with the growing recognition of the idea. To a query, he said “In Europe, there will be political and security aspects to this acceptance of the Indo-Pacific, as there were many other aspects with the ASEAN, Japan, Australia and the US.”

Jaishankar also hinted that there could be other European countries that will support the Indo-Pacific Strategy. Countries including France, Germany and the Netherlands have in November come out with their own version of the Indo-Pacific policy to counter the increasing belligerence of China in the waters from IOR to Pacific and the Atlantic.

Other issues discussed

Both he and Mr Raab reviewed the state of the world, the regional issues, also the situation in Afghanistan, the Indo-Pacific, and the developments in the Middle East.

India- UK trade Deal?

The last decade has witnessed a steady rise in the bilateral trade and it has now touched USD15.48 billion in 2019-20. During talks, the two sides talked about fast-tracking the discussions on a trade deal as well as concluding a comprehensive migration and mobility partnership agreement. This can help in faster movement of students and professionals in both directions.

According to Mr Raab “The two sides already have a strong and growing trade relationship. In the year before the pandemic hit, bilateral trade between India and the UK grew at a vibrant 11%. And, we want to do is take that up to another level working towards agreeing an enhanced trade partnership next year – which itself we hope will be a stepping stone towards a future Free Trade Agreement.”

To a question related to the proposed trade deal between the two countries, Mr Raab said the two countries can deliver an ‘Enhanced Trade Partnership’ next year. And to the two countries “can combine cybersecurity expertise to protect our citizens, and join forces to protect global health and promote things like vaccine production.”

In the Defence Sector, as has been reported earlier by Financial Express Online, both countries will be inking a Defence Logistics Agreement, and a Defence Training MoU. Drafts are already in final stages awaiting approvals. Space is another area where the two countries are keen to cooperate.

Also, an agreement is in the pipeline on the development of jet technology and Missile Simulation Systems.

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