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India and the United Kingdom have shared historic ties for several centuries. India-UK have a Strategic Partnership since 2004. The India-UK relationship is multi-faceted spanning across trade and economy, health, science & technology, defence & security, people-to-people relations, climate change and close cooperation on multilateral issues. The Prime Minister of the UK visited India on April 21-22, 2022. In the bilateral talks, the Prime Ministers of India and the UK appreciated the progress made on the Roadmap 2030 launched at the Virtual Summit in May 2021. Both the leaders reiterated their commitment to pursue a more robust and action oriented cooperation across the full spectrum of bilateral relations.
What are the key outcomes of the bilateral meeting?
The PMs appreciated the progress in ongoing FTA negotiations and implementation of the Enhanced Trade Partnership.
Cyber Cooperation: Both sides issued a Joint Statement for further intensifying cooperation on Cyber Security particularly in the areas of cyber governance, cyber deterrence and safeguarding critical national infrastructure.
MoUs: The visit resulted in signing of several MOUs: (1) Government to Government MOUs: (a) MoU on Implementation of Global Innovation Partnership; (b) MoU on Cooperation on Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership; (2) Non Governmental MOUs: (a) MoU on establishment of short term Chair at Birmingham City University between ICCR and Birmingham City University; (b) Joint Declaration of Intent for cooperation in the field of Offshore Wind Development; (c) Memorandum of Understanding on the creation of The Chevening/Adani Scholarships on Artificial Intelligence; (d) MoU on satellite launch programme between New Space India Limited (NSIL) and OneWeb
Strategic Technology Dialogue: Ministerial-level dialogue on new and emerging communication technologies such as 5G, AI etc.
Collaboration on Integrated Electric Propulsion: Co-development of technology between the two Navies.
What progress has been made in the India-UK relationship?
Economic: During 2019-20, trade between the two countries stood at US$ 15.45 billion with the balance in favor of India. Between April 2021-February 2022, Indian exports to the UK stood at US$ 9.4 billion (2.5% of India’s exports). The imports in the corresponding period were US$ 6.59 billion (1.2% of India’s imports). There is a scope for significant improvement. Both countries expect that the bilateral trade can reach US$ 100 billion by 2030.
Defense and Security: India and the UK signed the Defence and International Security Partnership (DISP) in November 2015. It provides a strategic roadmap and direction to the evolving India-UK Defence Relations. At present some 70 companies in the UK supply goods for aircraft and related equipment besides supporting platforms like the Jaguar, Mirage and Kiran aircraft.
Indian Diaspora: Around 1.5 million people of Indian origin live in Britain. Indian diaspora are making significant contributions to the British Society. This includes 15 Members of Parliament, three members in Cabinet, and two in high office as Finance and Home Ministers.
Education: The UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) was launched in 2005. A new ‘UKEIRI Mobility Programme: Study in India’ was also launched in 2019. Under this Britain’s universities collaborate with Indian partners and send UK students to India.
Health: The successful partnership between Oxford University, AstraZeneca and SII on COVID-19 vaccine demonstrated the potential of Indian and UK expertise working together to solve international challenges. The two sides are also working on pandemic preparedness, Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), digital health, Ayurveda and alternative medicines, as well as health worker mobility.
What is the significance of India-UK Relationship?
Regional and global issues of mutual interest: A healthy relationship between the two is imperative for enhancing cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, Afghanistan, UNSC, G20 and Commonwealth. For instance, India welcomed the UK’s accession in the Indo-Pacific Ocean’s Initiative under the Maritime Security pillar.
Tackling Climate Change: The cooperation between them can be helpful to achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement and in implementing the Glasgow Climate Pact. For instance, the countries have agreed to work for early operationalisation of the Global Green Grids-One Sun One World One Grid Initiative (OSOWOG) under ISA. They are also working on the IRIS platform under CDRI which was jointly launched by India and UK at COP26.
|Read More: GGI-OSOWOG project – Explained, pointwise|
Supporting 3rd World Countries: Through the Global Innovation Partnership, India and UK have agreed to co-finance up to £ 75 million to support the transfer and scale up of climate smart sustainable innovations to third countries. The novel GIP Fund created under this Partnership will also aim to raise additional £ 100 million from the market to support Indian innovations.
Strategic Considerations: India can engage with the UK to counter China’s rise in the Indian Ocean Region. The UK on other hand can use India as an alternative destination to China and its companies can invest in India as part of China plus one strategy. It is the business strategy to avoid investing only in China and diversify business into other countries.
What are the challenges in the India-UK Relationship?
No Free Trade Agreement: Despite a good bilateral relationship and occurrence of BREXIT, both the countries have not been able to conclude a Free trade agreement. This is required to take the relationship to the next level.
Different stand on Russia Ukraine conflict: The U.K has openly criticized the Russian invasion while the same is not being done by India. This hasn’t impacted their bilateral relationship till now but it may emerge as a future bottleneck.
Extradition Rigidities: Both the countries have an extradition treaty between them but still speedy expedition doesn’t take place. For instance, India hasn’t been able to extradite Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and other fugitives from London.
Security concerns: Indian concerns include the presence of Khalistani elements and their activities in the UK, and the country’s political views on Jammu and Kashmir.
Illegal Migrants: There are more than 1 lakh of illegal Indian immigrants in the UK. The UK government has put pressure to send them back but both the countries have not yet signed the migration and mobility agreement.
Concerns in Neighborhood: The growing partnership between India and UK may not be welcomed by China who may create more tensions on borders. Further, China’s hostility is preventing India from participating in initiatives like AUKUS.
|Read More: AUKUS Security Alliance – Explained, pointwise|
What lies ahead?
First, the leaders have agreed to conclude a comprehensive and balanced trade deal by the end October 2022. The FTA would result in big jump in the bilateral trade.
Second, India and Britain may explore an agreement on “migration and mobility” to facilitate the legal movement of Indians into Britain.
Third, the UK should live up to its commitment to the extradition of Indian fugitives e.g., Nirav Modi should be extradited as his extradition process is almost completed.
Fourth, India should unequivocally convey its stance on initiatives like AUKUS in order to avoid any border tensions or deterioration of neighborhood relations.
As the world recovers from the COVID-19 Pandemic, both the countries need to focus on sustained economic recovery and work towards building national resilience and trusted partnerships to mitigate external disruptions.