‘Typhoon is the best product for your requirements'
Britain does not regard India's decision to buy French combat aircraft Rafale as a setback to bilateral ties, but believes that it is legitimate to carry on making a case for Eurofighter Typhoon made by a European consortium that includes Britain.
“Britain doesn't regard it as a setback ... Britain's relationship with India is not dependent on a single contract,” visiting U.K. Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Jeremy Browne said in an interview with The Hindu on Tuesday.
India and the U.K. shared links across culture, education, science, trade and business, besides working together politically, he pointed out.
“Our understanding is that the French option is the preferred bidder, but the contract is yet to be finalised. While the process is not complete, we are keen to carry on making the case for the [the European consortium's] offer,” he said.
Asked whether he would raise the issue with officials in New Delhi, he said: “We do want to, but not in a way that is disrespectful … Given the fact that there is no final conclusion, we feel it is entirely legitimate.”
Mr. Browne was at pains to stress that the U.K. was not questioning the validity of the process by which India chose Rafale for exclusive negotiations, but it was interested in understanding it. “We want to make sure we are very competitive in future.”
He said the consortium had the “strongest product, strongest in terms of wider collaboration on technology,” but added that India was entirely free to decide from whom to buy aircraft of this type. “It is for the government making the purchase to decide, but it is the best product. To me, it is the best product for your requirements.”
Explaining how Britain saw India's role in international affairs, he said the challenge before India was that it had to play a greater role on the world stage, especially in the G-20. His country was seeking to work closely with India to achieve international objectives.
On the bomb attack on an Israeli diplomat on Monday in New Delhi, he did not want to speculate whether the perpetrators could be linked to Iran, but was critical of Iran's “sponsorship” of terrorism, its human rights record and its nuclear ambitions.
Stressing that Britain favoured amicable and peaceful resolution of disputes, he said: “We are not seeking [any] conflict with Iran, we are not taking any issue off the table.”
And he saw a role for India in this. “Our hope is that India will work with Britain, wherever appropriate.” This would be in the interests of the world and stability in West Asia.
Asked whether the prolonged delay in arriving at a two-state solution for the Palestinian question was contributing to tensions across the world, he said it was indeed a viable solution for the Palestinian people and Israel's security concerns. “If the question is would arriving at a two-state solution be a big step forward, the answer is yes; but if it is whether the current situation is an excuse for Iran to pursue its nuclear programme or sponsor terrorism, the answer is no.”
Mr. Browne said Britain did not see India in the context South Asia, but as an international player alongside China and Brazil. While Britain was reducing its budget for diplomatic activity in general, the allocation for India was being increased. Relations with India were nowhere near their full potential, and there was considerable scope for expansion.
Keywords: Indo-U.K ties