India-UK Defence Relations

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated their commitment to boost the defence and security cooperation under the India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and enhance engagements in support of a free, open and secure Indo-Pacific

May 5, 2022 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd) Photo(s): By PIB
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, at the Ceremonial Reception, at Rashtrapati Bhawan, in New Delhi on April 22, 2022.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited India on April 21-22, 2022, at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This was the first visit by Johnson to India as Prime Minister. The visit coincided with both countries celebrating 75 years of bilateral ties and India commemorating the 75th anniversary of Independence. In the delegation level talks held in New Delhi, both leaders expressed satisfaction over the progress made in the Roadmap 2030 for India-UK future relations launched during the virtual summit between them in 2021 and the follow up actions taken by foreign ministers of both countries.

Both leaders expressed the desire to steer bilateral relations towards a Vision 2047 for shared security and prosperity of their people and the planet. This is rather ambitious considering that the geopolitical dynamics 25 years away are rather unpredictable.

Britain has committed to invest $1 billion in climate related projects in India in the period 2022-2026, as also UK's guarantee for $1 billion World Bank lending to support India for developing green infrastructure. India and the UK will co-finance up to $100 million over 14 years to support transfer and scale up of climate-smart inclusive innovations from India to third countries in Asia, Africa and the Indo-Pacific.

Britain's Defence Science & Technology Laboratory and India's Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) are to undertake joint-research, co-design, co-development and joint production of defence technology and systems, particularly in key and emerging military technologies including electric propulsion systems

Both leaders reiterated their commitment to boost the defence and security cooperation under the India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and enhance engagements in support of a free, open and secure Indo-Pacific. Britain's Defence Science & Technology Laboratory and India's Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) are to undertake joint-research, co-design, co-development and joint production of defence technology and systems, particularly in key and emerging military technologies including electric propulsion systems. Both leaders discussed defence industrial collaboration for manufacturing defence equipment, systems, spare parts, components, aggregates and other related products and key capabilities, under the Make-in-India program through co-development, indigenisation, transfer of technology (ToT) and setting up joint ventures (JVs) for meeting requirements of the Indian Military and other countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi meeting Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson, at Hyderabad House, in New Delhi on April 22, 2022.

Strategic collaboration including for developing Modern Fighter Aircraft and Jet Engine Advanced Core Technology was also discussed, with both leaders agreeing to work bilaterally and with key partner countries to facilitate highest level access to technology to Indian industry and for India to participate in Britain's aviation and shipbuilding programmes. They also called for increased engagements on critical and emerging domains of defence including Space, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Cyber.

Modi welcomed UK's decision to join the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI) and co-lead the pillar on Maritime Security to promote regional coordination and cooperation for securing and protecting the Indo-Pacific maritime domain. Johnson reiterated the support of the UK for India's permanent membership in a reformed United Nations Security Council (UNSC) and India's entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). Both sides reaffirmed the salience of G20 in addressing diverse global issues and agreed to work together closely during and in preparation for India's Presidency of the G20 in 2023.

Strategic collaboration including for developing Modern Fighter Aircraft and Jet Engine Advanced Core Technology was also discussed, with both leaders agreeing to work bilaterally and with key partner countries to facilitate highest level access to technology to Indian industry

Both leaders expressed zero tolerance for terrorism in all forms, called upon all countries to root out terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupt terrorist networks and their financing channels, and halt cross-border movement of terrorists. They reiterated condemnation of terrorist attacks in India and the UK, including the Mumbai and Pathankot attacks, emphasising that perpetrators of terrorist attacks be expeditiously brought to justice.

On face value, the visit of Boris Johnson will give impetus to the India-UK defence partnership. However, how this will proceed in backdrop of the following, remains to be seen:

  • Both the CIA and MI6 have strong relations with Pakistan's ISI and the military has always ruled Pakistan directly or indirectly.
  • Both the US and UK are pumping mercenaries (and terrorists?) into Ukraine to fight the Russians, which puts them in the same league as Pakistan in terms of promoting terrorism.
  • Pakistani scholar Ayesha Siddiqa wrote on August 11, 2021:
    • The British Chief of Defence Staff, General Nicolas Carter is a frequent visitor to Rawalpindi.
    • The British High Commission in Pakistan is the largest diplomatic mission that the UK has anywhere in the world.
    • London is practically a second home and a natural refuge for Pakistan's political class and elite Generals.
    • Britain is tied to Pakistan due to both domestic political and security matters. The approximately 1.2 million British of Pakistani origin that are part of politics in Northern England, and even other places, make it imperative for British politicians to be conscious of Pakistan.
  • Britain and its foreign office controlled BBC have shown a perceptible tilt towards Pakistan vis--vis India in the region over the years.
  • Anti-India groups have been operating in the UK with intransigence or underhand support from British administrations and politicians.
  • British politicians have been targeting India on humanitarian and minority issues, like the US, despite the atrocious human rights record of both these countries over the decades.
  • Successive British Governments have done virtually nothing to extradite a host of economic fugitives from India lodged in London despite an extradition treaty. Interestingly, the UK has arbitrarily confiscated the properties of Russian oligarchs. So, why does Johnson not confiscate the properties of economic fugitives from India in London and elsewhere in the UK?
  • Denouncing Pakistani terrorism and bringing perpetrators of terror attacks in India in joint statement is routine, like the US does, with no pressure exerted on Pakistan.
  • Similarly, support to India for permanent UNSC seat and membership of NSG is good but knowing that these will be vetoed by China.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson at the delegation level talks, at Hyderabad House, in New Delhi on April 22, 2022.

Coming to the strategic collaboration in emerging military technologies, including in modern fighter aircraft and jet engine advanced core technology, Johnson sounded 'haughty' by saying that "Britain will provide India with knowhow to build battle winning aircraft", which smells of patronising. He also conveyed a deadline for finalising the FTA by mentioning "by Diwali" which falls on October 24 this year. Obviously he does not realise that he is doing no favour to India. France has already offered engine technology to us.

Both leaders expressed zero tolerance for terrorism in all forms, called upon all countries to root out terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupt terrorist networks and their financing channels, and halt cross-border movement of terrorists

Britain needs to get off the high horse, as should the US. The Indo-US strategic partnership has not witnessed any significant ToT of high-end technology from the US to India, Treating India with respect and according due recognition to India's national interests would help advance the India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership much better.