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I see terrific opportunities for India as a trusted supplier, says UK High Commissioner

Chennai : 25/10/21: Alexander Ellis British high commissioner to India. during an interview with The Hindu, in Chennai, on Monday Photo: Ravindran R / The Hindu  

Last week, British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said India was “essential” in ensuring a free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific. On Monday, British High Commissioner Alexander Ellis elaborated on the UK’s interest in the region, and underlined India’s role as a trusted supplier in the global supply chain.

Excerpts from the interview:

The port stop of the HMS Queen Elizabeth in Mumbai was termed the UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt in action. Could you elaborate on the need for ensuring an open Indo-Pacific?

Indians benefit enormously from openness. And openness requires security to defend it. And that's true of many countries across the Indo Pacific. UK is a European country, obviously, but it has significant interests in this part of the world. And those interests are growing. If you think about the great drivers and challenges of the next 30 years, one of them is that the Indo Pacific will become evermore the centre of the world. And UK has to adapt to that. That's why we have invested so much in presence in the region in different ways. There are very there are a few countries in the world, which essentially determine the world's climate. India is one of them, China is another both in this region. .

What’s your response to the contention that multinational military activities in the Indo-Pacific are primarily aimed against China?

They’re aimed for something, which is having an open and secure Indo-Pacific. And you’re right to refer to the fact that the Carrier Strike Group itself has more than one country. It has a Dutch destroyer. It has some American marines. So this is working with a lot of countries — some old friends, some new partners. And we’ve all realised that a lot more of the future of the world sits here.

Is the UK open to be part of the Malabar exercise, if there is an invitation..

We are open and we do exercise and work with several different countries in this region. Australia obviously is one. We have a military presence in Brunei, we have a close relationship with Singapore, we're doing even more with Japan. So you know we work with increasing with more and more countries of this region.

Is it possible to isolate China, which the global supply chains are heavily depending on?

It's about working for something -- which is having an open and secure Indo Pacific. And a lot of this has a brand trust. Building relationships with trust with India and with other partners -- Japan, Australia and with others in the region. With China, we will always have a mix. Sometimes we will cooperate in what we're trying to do on climate change. Sometimes we will compete and occasionally we may have to contest.

This is not the Cold War. This is a different kind of world. But every country, I think, has to adapt to the consequences of both a powerful China and also a more assertive China. And we have had to adapt ourselves to this as well. And that is usually the result of Chinese behaviour. The facts change and we have to change with them.

But that's not just true for the UK; India is going through exactly the same phenomena. So we're always finding this blend of different approaches, according to the issue.

It requires an adaptation of our structures, which we've done in the UK. And we've seen that over 5G, where, we've never ended at any one country. But you know, you have to have a degree of trust in your technology, suppliers, and avoid high-risk vendors. I will see terrific opportunities for India in that area as a trusted supplier, which is why I come back to why trust is so important between countries like the UK and India, because a lot flows from that trust.

What are the major issues which the COP in Glasgow hopes to achieve?

We have a good agreement of Paris and we’d have to take a further step down that path. One important thing about this COP is that it is about everyone's contribution. India has an incredibly important role to play. I think that India’s scale obviously makes it a huge actor in this area. But one great advantage India has is [that] to an extent, it has the solutions in its own hands.

Certain decisions were made by the British and Indian governments which affected travellers and businessmen of these countries. They are resolved now. Do you think everything is back to normal now?

There are still restraints on the number of flights that could fly in UK and India, which we want to change. The demand is enormous with people wanting to travel between the two countries, which is a good sign. We would like to have electronic visas available for tourists and for business people going from UK to India.

Is there any need for increasing the frequency of flights between any specific Indian and UK cities?

At the moment there's a restriction on the amount of flights. I am strongly in favour for encouraging the flow of people between the two countries. And that's both ways. I think if there is a growth, I hope it'll be between what you might call Tier-II and Tier-III cities in the two countries because I think that’s where you have an increasing demand for travel, particularly from India to the UK.


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