Konkan Shakti exercise: India-U.K. to launch phase of high-level exchanges

UK Carrier Strike Group will participate in a bilateral exercise with Navy

Published - October 21, 2021 05:46 am IST - NEW DELHI

With the arrival of the UK Carrier Strike Group on Thursday on the western coast, India-U.K. ties will gear up for a phase of high profile engagements.

The Strike Group led by HMS Queen Elizabeth is on a “non-provocative” exercise in the Indo-Pacific region in what is being interpreted as the biggest British naval deployment since the end of the Cold War. The phase of engagement, which begins on Thursday, will stretch into the COP26 summit for climate action in Glasgow in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to participate.

The UK Carrier Strike Group has traversed through the Philippine Sea to the Bay of Bengal and in the process has travelled through the sensitive South China Sea which is in the middle of an international dispute because of China’s claims over the strategically located water body.

Spectacular event

On Thursday, it will participate in a bilateral exercise with the Navy named “Konkan Shakti”. It was learnt that the exercise will include a “spectacular event” on Saturday which will be attended by U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss. She is expected to reach India on Friday for a three-day visit.

The exercise is part of the U.K.’s consistent practice of maritime exercises it has carried out with several countries like the U.S. and Japan in recent years.

Ms. Truss met External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in New York on the sidelines of the General Assembly to resolve the problem over the U.K.’s non-recognition of the Covishield vaccine.

The U.K. subsequently lifted quarantine requirements for Indian travellers who are vaccinated with Covishield or any other U.K.-recognised vaccines. Ms. Truss’s visit coincides with a critical phase in South Asia in view of the large-scale human displacement and heightened risk of terrorism following the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban.

Afghanistan, Indo-Pacific and climate action will draw high-level participation in the COP26 summit. But the high-point of the visit of the Foreign Secretary is likely to be the dialogue on bilateral trade with focus on finalising an “interim harvest deal”.

Enhanced trade partnership

The U.K. under the Boris Johnson Government has been focused on enhanced trade partnership with India as a post-Brexit plan and the upcoming visit is likely to highlight the economic diplomacy. India and the U.K. have indicated that they are in favour of beginning talks for a trade agreement from November.

The COP26 summit will provide both sides an opportunity to join hands to deal with the threat of climate change. President-elect of COP26, British MP Alok Sharma, met Prime Minister Modi last month here and invited India to participate in the summit. Both sides are likely to declare a common vision of the world during the summit.

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