It’s fitting, therefore, that British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon is visiting India to lead the United Kingdom’s commemorations recognising India’s sacrifice during World War One. Mr Fallon began the commemorations October 30 by laying a wreath at India Gate as a mark of respect for the Indian servicemen who gave their lives.
In a statement ahead of his trip to India, Mr Fallon said: “My visit also has a strong emotional theme. At this time of remembrance, I am honoured to have the opportunity to pay tribute to those from both nations who sacrificed their lives for their countries in the First World War.”
When the World War I erupted in 1914, nationalist sentiments were soaring in India. There were widespread apprehensions among the British establishment that the outbreak of the war would provide fodder to the Indian nationalists to pursue independence with greater vigour. Those fears, however, proved to be unfounded when India rallied to the British-led Allied cause in the hope that by helping the beleaguered British, the imperial power would reward the country with independence. Subsequently, Indian troops were deployed on the Western Front by the winter of 1914 and fought at the first Battle of Ypres. By the end of 1915, several Indian soldiers were killed and many were reported missing.
Around 800,000 Indian troops fought at different theatres in the war, including Gallipoli and North and East Africa, with one-and-a-half million volunteering to fight. At the end of it, 47,746 were classed as killed or missing with 65,000 wounded. The Indian Corps won many honours, including 13,000 medals for gallantry, including 12 Victoria Crosses.
The British foreign secretary will also be holding wide-ranging talks in India with his Indian counterpart Arun Jaitley and pitch for bolstering defence and military partnership with India.
Ahead of his visit, Mr Fallon said: “I’m delighted to be making my first visit to India as Secretary of State. The UK and India have a long tradition of close partnership to promote global stability. My visit confirms our determination to strengthen and deepen that relationship still further.”
“There is considerable scope for the UK and India to work together to tackle many of the biggest security challenges confronting the global community. My discussions with Minister Jaitley aim to identify how best to do so.”
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