India and UK are bound by strong ties of history and culture. India’s multifaceted bilateral relationship with the UK intensified with its up gradation to a Strategic Partnership in 2004. Today, India has become a major economic power and is a highly valued strategic partner for the UK.
LINKAGE POINT: India-UK relations were elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2021, based on a shared commitment towards democracy, fundamental freedoms and multilateralism. The following areas describe the nature of collaboration between two nations:
- 1.India exports to the UK stand at around $9.43 billion, while imports aggregated $6.58 billion. India’s main exports to the UK include ready-made garments and textiles, gems and jewellery, engineering goods, petroleum products, transport equipment, spices, pharmaceuticals and marine products. Imports from Britain include precious and semi-precious stones, ores and metal scraps, engineering goods, chemicals and machinery.
- 2.In the services sector, the UK is the largest market in Europe for Indian IT services.
- 3.The two countries launched the Climate Finance Leadership Initiative (CFLI) in 2021 to support climate and green energy projects in India. The CFLI aims to create investment-friendly business environments and robust pipelines of bankable sustainable infrastructure opportunities in emerging markets. These investments aim to support India’s target of 450 GW renewable energy by 2030.
- 4. Defense and security also form key elements of the India-UK partnership, with special focus on R&D and joint industrial cooperation to develop advanced defense capabilities. Strengthening collaboration in tackling new threats in the cyber, space, counter-terrorism and maritime domains adds to the economic partnership. As Britain has helped India strengthen its military might to tackle the combined China-Pakistan threat, the armed forces of two countries are also deeply engaged in joint war games. Naval exercise Konkan is the flagship annual event between the Indian and UK naval forces, which has continued uninterrupted since the beginning of this century.
- 5. India and the UK also share an enhanced partnership in science, tech, education, research and innovation. Promoting collaboration in Artificial Intelligence (AI), the two countries together aim to deliver economic and social benefits to both nations.
Both the nations are working towards a Vision 2047 for shared security and prosperity for their people and the world.
The political developments in UK have raised new expectations w.r.t the bilateral ties. Some of the areas have been listed below:
- 1.India-UK FTA: A Free Trade Agreement between India and the UK is expected to enhance economic growth and prosperity by: increasing import and export flows; increasing investment flows (both outward and inward); enhancing productivity through a more efficient allocation of resources; and greater openness to international competition.
- 2.The UK is keen to gain access to Indian markets for transport equipment, electrical equipment, medical devices, chemicals, motor vehicles and parts, wines, Scotch, and spirits, as well as some fruits and vegetables – which could impact local industry players and/or boost the manufacturing ecosystem.
- 3.The UK already supports India’s proposal for permanent membership of the UNSC and is also an important interlocutor for India in the EU, G8, G20 and global contexts. Hence, India’s geopolitical interests would benefit.
- 4. Continuing to face border and other challenges from China, India is increasingly recognizing the significance of greater security and defence cooperation not only with the US and EU, but with the UK too. As the Roadmap 2030 commits to enhanced defense cooperation, this will be critical not only for the UK’s success in the Indo-pacific region but also for India’s aim to rope in likeminded powers to counter China’s challenge in the Indian and pacific oceans. Roadmap 2030 has already set the stage for political leaders, who will now be responsible to implement this ambitious strategic agenda.
As both nations share common security and economic concerns, deepened partnership between the two will prove beneficial for both. The elevation of an Indian origin person as the PM of UK brings immense hope for both the nations. With a whole new set of circumstances, India and Britain should recognize that they both need each other to achieve their larger goals.