India-U.K. defence, trade ties to get a booster shot

U.K. likely to offer series of technological collaborations.

April 22, 2022 11:24 am | Updated April 23, 2022 09:30 am IST - NEW DELHI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with U.K. PM Boris Johnson with at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Friday, April 22, 2022.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with U.K. PM Boris Johnson with at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Friday, April 22, 2022. | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

In the backdrop of the rapid geopolitical turmoil, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Boris Johnson on Friday agreed on a new and expanded India-U.K. defence partnership and vowed to seal an ambitious free trade agreement by the end of the year.

After his wide-ranging talks with Mr. Modi on the second and final day of his India visit, Mr. Johnson said the U.K. is creating an Open General Export Licence (OGEL) for India to “reduce bureaucracy and slashing delivery times” for defence procurement.

The British Prime Minister said both sides agreed to work together to meet new threats across land, sea, air space and cyber domains and the U.K. will partner with India on new fighter jet technology as well as in the maritime sphere to detect and respond to threats.

‘A beacon in stormy seas’

Ahead of a bilateral meeting at Hyderabad House, the British Prime Minister on Friday described the India-U.K. relationship as a “beacon in stormy seas.”

“Our collaboration on the issues that matter to both our countries, from climate change to energy security and defence, is of vital importance as we look to the future. I look forward to discussing these issues with Prime Minister Modi in New Delhi today and working together to deliver a more secure and prosperous future for both our peoples,” said Mr. Johnson in his first statement after a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The U.K. will also issue an Open General Export Licence (OGEL) to support greater defence and security collaboration in the coming decade. The OGEL will reduce bureaucratic interference and shorten delivery time for India’s defence procurement. This is the first British OGEL in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Today, we have agreed on a new and expanded defence and security partnership, and decades-long commitment to not only forge tighter bonds between us but to support your goal, Narendra, of Make in India (in defence),” Mr. Johnson said, describing Mr. Modi as his “khas dost” (special friend).

Referring to the Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Mr. Johnson said he wanted negotiators from both sides to close the deal before Deepavali in October.

Mr. Modi said “good progress” is being made in the negotiations and that both sides have decided to do their best to close the pact by the end of this year. “In the last few months, India has concluded Free Trade Agreements with UAE and Australia. At the same pace, with the same commitment, we would like to move forward on the FTA with the U.K. as well,” Mr. Modi said.

“We have also agreed to enhance cooperation in the defence sector...We welcome the U.K.’s support for ‘self-reliant India’ in manufacturing, technology, design and development,” he said. On Ukraine, Mr. Modi stressed an immediate ceasefire and resolution of the problem through dialogue and diplomacy. “We also reiterated the importance of respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries,” he said.

Talking about the Indo-Pacific, Mr. Modi emphasised on maintaining a free, open, inclusive and rules-based order in the region and noted that India welcomed the U.K.’s decision to join the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative. “We reiterated our support for a peaceful, stable and secure Afghanistan and for an inclusive and representative government. It is necessary that Afghan territory is not used to spread terrorism in other countries,” he said.

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