INDIA – UK RELATIONS

GS 2 : IR – Effect of Policies and Politics of Developed and Developing Countries on India’s interests

Source: The Indian Express dated 04/05/2021 https://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/narendra-modi-boris-johnson-digital-conversation-covid-crisis-india-uk-relations-7300826/

Context: India and the United Kingdom share a modern partnership bound by strong historical ties. The bilateral relationship was upgraded to a strategic partnership in 2004 and further strengthened by the successive governments.
Recently, the Prime Ministers of both the countries held a virtual bilateral meeting and discussed various issues.

Background

India and the United Kingdom enjoy a multi-faceted relationship spanning across trade and economy, health, science & technology, defence & security, people-to-people relations, climate change and close cooperation on multilateral issues.

Bilateral Institutional Engagements 
  • The India-UK Foreign Office Consultations
  • The India-UK Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Dialogue
  • The India-UK JWG on Counter Terrorism
  • UN Dialogue,Policy Planning Dialogue ,Strategic Dialogue, Cyber Dialogue and Home Affairs Dialogue
Economic Cooperation
  • Trade
    • touched $15.5 billion with a $2 billion trade surplus in favour of India.
  • Investment
    • India invested in 120 projects and created 5,429 new jobs in the UK to become the second-largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) after the US in 2019 according to the Department for International Trade (DIT) inward investment statistics for 2019-2020. 
    • UK is the 6th largest inward investor in India. According to Global Britain and India report, some 600 UK companies operate in India creating over 800,000 jobs, claiming one in every 20 jobs in organised sector in India
    • A virtual 14th Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) meeting was held on July 2020.Both sides agreed to remove barriers to trade as part of a roadmap to a Free Trade Agreement.
  • Defence
    • Defence and International Security Partnership (DISP) –signed in 2015 to provide a strategic roadmap and direction to the evolving India-UK Defence Relations.
    • Defence related companies- About 70 such industries across the UK supply various goods for aircraft/helicopter manufacturing/overhaul at HAL like ejection seats, fuel tank kits, hydraulic pumps, engine spares etc and support legacy platforms like Jaguar, Mirage & Kiran.  
    • Maritime cooperation-UK is deploying Carrier Strike Group in Indian Ocean region this year in line with its strategic tilt to Indo-Pacific.
  • Bilateral military exercises
  • Education, Research and Innovation  
    • India was one of the biggest beneficiaries of UK’s new liberalised point-based immigration system. Around 50000 Indian students are currently studying in UK.  
    • Science and Technology collaborations.
      • UK is India’s 2nd largest partner in S &T collaborations.
      • Institutionalised mechanisms include UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI), UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) programmes etc.
  • Climate and Environment  
    • India and UK closely engage on climate related issues through various mechanisms Eg: Ministerial Energy Dialogue,Joint Working Groups on Climate, Power and Renewables
    • India-UK Green Growth Equity Fund is mobilising institutional investments in the renewable energy, waste management, electric mobility and environment sub-sectors in India.
  • Health
    • The successful partnership between Oxford University, AstraZeneca and SII on Covid19 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), Zoonotic research, non-communicable diseases, digital health, ayurveda and alternate medicines, as well as health worker mobility.
    • Ayurveda: An MOU was signed in April 2018 for developing an AYUSH Centre at St. Charles Hospital, London. It launched the ‘Ayuryoga’ programme in November 2020 and started online modules to raise awareness and practise of Ayurveda and Yoga in UK.
  • Multilateral Collaboration  
    • UK has been supportive of India’s permanent membership of UNSC since 2004. 
    • UK is also a strong supporter of India’s membership of the NSG, MTCR, Australia Group and Wassenar Arrangement. 
    • UK and India are the current co-chairs of CDRI. 
    • UK is also a member of ISA(International Solar Alliance) and supports its activities. 
  • Indian Diaspora  
    • The Indian Diaspora in UK includes approximately 1.6 million British nationals of Indian origin and about 3,51,000 NRIs living in the UK equating to almost 2.5 percent of the UK population and contributing 6% of the country’s GDP
    • At present there are sixteen Indian origin MPs in the UK Parliament and, out of these, five of them hold key Ministerial posts in the Government.
Challenges in India UK relations
Outcomes of the recent meeting
  1. India thanked the UK for the prompt medical assistance provided by it in the wake of the severe second wave of Covid-19 in India.
  2. Adopted ‘Roadmap 2030’:
    • It will elevate bilateral ties to a “Comprehensive Strategic Partnership”.
    • It aims to- enhance global health security and pandemic resilience.
    • to expand the existing UK-India vaccines partnership.
  3. Launched Enhanced Trade Partnership:
    • It envisages
      • facilitating market access in specific sectors. 
      • Britain open up its fisheries sector to more Indian players, facilitate more opportunities for nurses,
      • recognise Indian seafarers’ certificates 
      • enter into a joint dialogue on a social security agreement.
    • In return, India lifted restrictions to enable British fruit producers to export their produce to the country and improved access for medical devices.
    • They will also work towards reciprocal opening up of legal services.
    • Announced their intent to negotiate a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (FTA), including consideration of an interim trade agreement to deliver early gains.
    • Set an ambitious target of more than doubling bilateral trade by 2030
  4. Announcement of a new India-UK ‘Global Innovation Partnership’:
    • The new partnership aims to support the transfer of inclusive Indian innovations to select developing countries, starting with Africa.
  5. Security & Defence:
    • Cooperation on Maritime Domain Awareness:
      • This includes new agreements on maritime information sharing, an invitation to the UK to join India’s Information Fusion Centre in Gurgaon and an ambitious exercise programme which includes joint trilateral exercises.
  6. Migration: India-UK Migration and Mobility Partnership (MMP) -aimed at reducing illegal immigration into the UK.
  7. Climate Change: Agreed to work together to ensure an ambitious outcome at Conference of the Parties (COP) 26.
Way forward
  • Revive the Commonwealth
    • For Britain that is reinventing itself politically after Brexit,the Commonwealth has become an important forum to recalibrate London’s international relations.
    • For a rising India,it is the most natural theatre to demonstrate its credibility as a ‘leading power’ and it will be one platform where Chinese presence will not hinder India’s ambitions.(  “above all, in the Commonwealth, when India speaks, everyone listens” – former Foreign Secretary K.Srinivasan)
  • Britain has become a “haven for financial fraudsters”.( Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi, Lalit Modi, Sanjay Bhandari just to name a few.)
  • The Extradition treaty should be reformed, if needed, to expedite the process and hence preventing fugitive economic offenders fleeing to the UK.

Britain, the world’s fifth largest economy, sees closer ties with India, the sixth biggest, as a key pillar of its post-Brexit push to seek trade and influence in the Indo-Pacific region and address growing Chinese dominance.
The agreements made in the latest summit mark the beginning of a new era in the UK-India relationship. Like the British PM remarked, there is a living bridge uniting the people of the two countries. We should try to strengthen this bridge and rise above our differences.

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