There will be dot balls, bouncers, and the odd googly… But great players draw on all their previous shared experience, says Gerald Howarth

After the sharp reaction following India's decision to go in for the French Rafale multirole fighter aircraft, the British are attempting to come round and grudgingly accept the loss of Eurofighter Typhoon in the over $10-billion deal.

Hours before Britain announced that it would continue to provide aid to India under development programme, Minister for International Security Strategy Gerald Howarth told an audience here on Monday how the country was “deeply disappointed” over the development but chose to dwell upon the opportunities that lie ahead in the sector for both the countries in building a partnership for mutual benefit.

“We must be ambitious and think long term. Building a strong and enduring strategic partnership is like building a partnership between two great batsmen in a Test match. There will be dot balls, bouncers, and, I dare say, the odd googly … But great players draw on all their previous shared experience. It gives you an immediate psychological edge over the bowlers. And it makes building a match-winning innings just that little bit easier and more certain,” Mr. Howarth said here on the occasion of a U.K.-India Defence Industry Conference under the auspices of the Indian Defence Ministry and trade associations at the India Habitat Centre here.

The Minister referred to three recent defence deals in which the British benefited through BAE Systems Hawk advanced trainer jet and AgustaWestland AW101 helicopter that the Indian Air Force is procuring for VVIP travel and Sonardyne's Sentinel underwater surveillance system.

Interestingly, data suggests that the U.K. has been one of the leading countries from which India has imported arms and that too consistently. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) database shows that Britain has exported arms worth $ 15.34 billion between 1950 and 2010, which is the third largest after the then Soviet Union/Russia and the United States of America.

Compare this to imports in the same period to the tune of $4 billion from France, $1.9 billion from Germany and $146 million from Italy. The last two countries along with Spain, are part of the four-nation European Consortium, EADS that builds Eurofighter. Reports state that EADS holds 46 per cent shares in Dassault Aviation, the French firm that manufactures Rafale.

In the run-up to the Medium Multi Role Combat Aircraft campaign, Germany was identified as the lead-nation to counter the competition from the French. One European campaign planner mentioned a year ago how the four nations have decided to work collectively on the political level anticipating hard-sell by the French at the highest level.

On the other hand, after American companies — Boeing and Lockheed Martin — got knocked out last year some campaign planners from the country questioned the strategy wherein these two entered competition as firms instead of giving a push as a country.

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