Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

India-UK Relations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: India-UK ties

India and the U.K. must not allow concerns of the moment to dominate their relationship.

Practice Question: Discuss the opportunities and the challenges in the India-UK relationships. What is the prospectus of India-UK relations after Brexit and Coronavirus pandemic?

Secretary’s Delhi visit

  • British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab’s Delhi visit came with a declaration of immediate and longer-term goals for the India-U.K. relationship.
  • It prepares the way for PM Johnson’s India visit, as the chief guest at Republic Day and to invite PM Modi to the U.K. to the G-7 and the Climate Change (COP26) summits next year.
  • Johnson will be the first head of government to visit India after the spread of COVID-19; this will also be his first bilateral visit anywhere after Brexit signalling the importance of ties with India.

A new page in ties

  • Upgrading the ties – Both countries up for upgrading of the 2004 India-U.K. Strategic Partnership to a “Comprehensive” Strategic Partnership.
  • This will help to envision closer military ties, cooperation in Indo-Pacific strategies, counter-terrorism and fighting climate change.
  • Hoping for FTA – Britain is on a mission to secure free trade partners after Brexit. It has wrapped up nearly 20 trade deals, including most recently with the U.S., Japan, and Vietnam and is hoping for India to sign the same.
  • Corona pandemic and cooperation for vaccine manufacturing – The highlight of India’s relations will be closer cooperation on the coronavirus vaccine.
  • India’s Serum Institute set to produce and distribute the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in India, and then as part of the COVAX project to other developing countries.

Challenges in India-UK relations

  • Stagnancy in the relations – India-UK relations are stagnant for the past five years due to Britain’s Brexit preoccupation.
  • The relationship has failed to progress in this time, despite visits by Mr Modi and former British Prime Minister Theresa May.
  • Other less important issues gained the narrative – Issues such as visas and the fate of fugitive Indian businessmen in the U.K. have been allowed to dominate the narrative.
  • The MEA had responded sharply to protests at the Indian High Commission in London over the Article 370 move in Jammu and Kashmir, and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
  • Britain’s concerns about the farmers’ protests that sparked responses in New Delhi about interference in India’s internal matters.
  • Sometimes, intense interest from the British Indian diaspora makes Indian politics a factor in British politics is a reminder of how closely linked the two countries remain.
  • A new chapter in India-UK relationship would necessarily entail the K. to be more sensitive to India’s concerns, and for India to be less sensitive when Britain expresses its concerns.

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