London: UK-India relations have emerged from their recent state of stagnation. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s acceptance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s kind invitation to be chief guest at Republic Day has changed the outlook and hopefully the outcome for both nations.
In January 2021 two of the world’s great orators will meet and publicly reconcile relations that will impact important sectors. Post-Brexit UK will deal with India independently on trade, without going through Brussels. UK-India have decided to move forward into the 21st Century to boost jobs and prosperity, prioritising trade and investment, health and climate change, plus a focus on defence and security in the Indo-Pacific region.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
I am absolutely delighted to be visiting India next year at the start of an exciting year for Global Britain, and look forward to delivering the quantum leap in our bilateral relationship that Prime Minister Modi and I have pledged to achieve.
As a key player in the Indo-Pacific region, India is an increasingly indispensable partner for the United Kingdom as we work to boost jobs and growth, confront shared threats to our security and protect our planet.”
Evidence of the newly emerging Global Britain can be found in The Ministry of Defence’s September ‘Integrated Operating Concept’ which recognises the changing character of warfare and the need to modernise responses, plus the importance of technology, narrative and alliances beyond NATO. Also in September Lieutenant-General Jim Hockenhull, Chief of Defence Intelligence, referred to challenges to the existing order from China and Russia that avoid kinetic conflict but operate in a grey zone between war and peacetime. These two circumstances indicate scope for UK-India collaborations.
Like the integration of Indian Joint Forces underway, the expertise and experience of British Armed Forces enable them to operate in every domain on land, at sea, in the air, in space and in cyber space. Amongst UK’s £24.1billion defence budget is an initiative to expand Royal Navy vessels to create the largest warship fleet in Europe, including new type 32 frigates and a new multi-role research/seabed survey vessel, both which could be deployed in the IPR. It is also reported that the government is working on an project to take control of the engineering specialist Sheffield Forgemaster to develop its submarine programme; in 2015 this financially struggling company avoided being taken over by a state-backed Chinese steel company which would have been a concern for the MOD.
The UK’s 2021 Integrated Defence and Foreign Policy Review is expected to reflect the ‘Tilt’ towards the Indo-Pacific (British think-tank advocates an Indo-Pacific Charter) and how to respond to China’s economic and territorial hegemony in detail. Turning the G7 into D10 is a wonderful idea of Boris Johnson’s and confirms his commitment to democracy in the IPR. As the UK-India special relationships manifests, it dovetails with India’s new strategic relationship with the US and UK’s continuing special relationship with the US, which could eventually lead to the Five Eyes alliance becoming Six Eyes.
Technology and telecoms companies still dominate the Grant Thornton Tracker (GTT), five of the top ten places went to Route Mobile UK , Dhoot Transmission (UK) Ltd and Incessant Technologie all feature. Newcomers this year were Evolutionary Systems Co Ltd and Rategain Technologies Ltd . GTT expect to see technology and telecoms companies continue to dominate, with the next wave of Indian technology companies, such as Ola Cabs and design techies Brilliant Basics stepping in to join the traditional Indian IT service providers. This success introduces an interesting discussion for both countries on the development of 5G.
India is the Pharmacy of the world and there are expanding possibilities for vaccine, therapeutics and PPE supply chains, experts from India and UK will collaborate on Covid_19 vaccines; a new joint pioneering new vaccines hub will share best practice for regulation and clinical trials, and foster innovation. The Pharmaceuticals and chemicals sector feature strongly in the GTT, this year they account for 15% of companies, the sector is represented in the top ten by Torrent Pharma UK Ltd.
The fastest-growing Indian company in the GTT is Energy Efficiency Services Ltd, set up by the GoI Ministry of Power to create and sustain markets for energy efficiency in India. The company is committed to investing £100 million in the UK over three years to promote and implement low-carbon, energy-efficient, renewable energy solutions. EESL EnergyPro Assets Ltd, a JV founded by the company, made several acquisitions in 2019 resulting in a growth rate of 715%. Cop26 provides joint opportunities such as developing solar energy harvested in space in an effort to achieve a perpetual zero carbon power source.
Green vegetables from India have appeared on UK supermarket shelves, Tesco are selling baby-corn from India; if the trade partnership continues its present rapid development and introduces some favourable tariffs, India could be a source of more fruit and vegetables for the UK.
English language is the living bridge between UK-India, sharing this language has so many benefits in law, medicine, science, aviation, diplomacy, tourism; English is the language of the internet and computers, it can open up employment possibilities and enables folks to share humour; it is thought a market of about 500million want to learn English. Already a higher education MOU signed with Karnataka, intending to recognise each other’s university degrees, has excited students and employers on both sides. Thus by definition of the Anglosphere, nations that share cultural, historical, diplomatic, political and military connections, India belongs.
Johnson’s visit will show the economic connection and friendship is still strong, it will bring to civil as well as political society the dangers from authoritarian expansionism and international terrorism, that partnerships between democracies must be solid and resilient. Ongoing contact at departmental level, ramping up of ministerial visits to the Cameron era level and focussed people to people relationships will be important to continue the transformation and deliver the change.