In the first meeting between their leaders after the Brexit, India and the United Kingdom unveiled a decadal vision to reboot their multi-faceted relationship, with Britain offering its support for the Make in India project of joint defence manufacturing and encouraging the rise of India as a major global player.
The two countries also decided to scale up their counter-terror cooperation, with Britain supporting India’s stand on collective global action against states that sponsor terrorism and provide sanctuaries to terrorists.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and her British counterpart Theresa May held wide-ranging talks at the stately Hyderabad House in New Delhi on November 7, their first full-spectrum meeting since May became the prime minister of the UK in July. The outcomes that emanated from the talks indicated a deepening of economic and strategic partnership between the two countries, which was crystallised in the joint statement entitled “India-UK Strategic Partnership looking forward to a renewed engagement: Vision for the decade ahead.”
“The two Prime Ministers emphasized working together on a contemporary and forward-looking global partnership to promote peace, security and prosperity of the two countries and act as a force for good in the world,” said the joint statement.
Boost for Make in India
The talks resulted in a template of enhanced deepen Defence and International Security Partnership to deepen cooperation across the spectrum, including on countering terrorism, radicalisation, violent extremism and cyber security.
“We will jointly set out areas on defence and security which make clear our future ambitions to design, make, exercise, train and co-operate together. And we will continue to consult and co-ordinate across a range of global policy security challenges, in pursuit of our shared goal of a more secure world,” said the statement.
Mr Modi invited British companies to look at “the multiple opportunities in the Indian defence sector. Looking beyond trade in defence equipment, I invite them to build partnerships with Indian enterprises that focus on manufacturing, technology transfer and co-development,” he said.
Joining hands against terror sanctuaries
Amid India’s ongoing diplomatic offensive to isolate Pakistan in the wake of the Uri terror attack, Britain joined hands with India to “identify, hold accountable and take strong measures against all those who encourage, support and finance terrorism, provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups, and falsely extol their virtues.” This formulation is significant as Britain was seen in India as not taking a strong stand on the Pakistan-origin terrorism in the aftermath of the Uri attack as it chose to focus on Pakistan being a victim of terrorism. The November 7 talks, however, seemed to have allayed India’s misgivings as May strongly condemned the September terrorist attack on the Indian Army Brigade headquarters in Uri and agreed to enhance cooperation in countering terrorism, extremism and radicalisation. In the days to come, India and Britain can be expected to collaborate in curbing “the threat from violent extremist use of the internet, including the sharing of best practices to reduce radicalisation and recruitment attempts online.”
Partnering India’s Growth Story
On the economic front, the two sides focused on building “the closest possible commercial and economic relationship,” after Britain leaves the EU and decided to focus on enhancing two-way trade and investment in the near term. PM May responded positively to PM Modi’s call for British companies to participate in the transformation of infrastructure in India and announced support for interlinked schemes of national resurgence, Make in India, Digital India, Skill India and Smart Cities. Ms May announced an additional £20 million for a Start-Up India Venture Capital Fund, which will support 30 enterprises and leverage additional £40m capital from other investors including UK venture capital funds.
Britain is already investing over £160m across 75 start-up enterprises which would create jobs and deliver critical services across several States in India. The finance ministers of the two countries will meet early next year to firm up a blueprint for reinvigorating the India-UK economic partnership across the spectrum.
The two pacts on ease of doing business and intellectual property rights shows that galvanising economic partnership will remain an important priority for the two countries in months to come.
UK backs India’s global ambitions
Taking a strategic view of their relationship, the two countries also pitched for collaboration in the world’s trouble spots, including Afghanistan. In an important formulation which will be watched closely in China, the two sides underscored the importance of maintaining the legal order for the seas and oceans based on the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and urged states to respect UNCLOS and refrain from activities which prejudice the peace, good order and security of the oceans, a veiled critique of China’s rejection of the Hague tribunal’s order on South China Sea.
The broad narrative that emerged from the talks between PM Modi and Theresa May was the political resolve of the two sides to reinvigorate this crucial bilateral relationship, with Britain supporting India’s greater international role, and its global aspirations for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council and membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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