UK and India vow 'quantum lead' in Modi-Johnson meet

Background India – UK Relations

India and Britain have had an umbilical relationship since our independence; yet, building a sustainable partnership with Britain has been rather hard. While India’s relations with countries as different as the US and France have dramatically improved in recent years, ties with Britain have lagged. One reason for this failure has been the colonial prism that has distorted mutual perceptions. London has found it difficult to shed its own prejudices about India. The bitter legacies of the Partition and Britain’s perceived tilt to Pakistan, coupled with Britain’s domestic politics have long complicated the engagement between Delhi and London. Delhi’s problems have been accentuated by the British Labour Party’s growing political negativity towards India.

At a virtual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his UK counterpart Boris Johnson India and the UK launched an Enhanced Trade Partnership that envisages facilitating market access in specific sectors, and unveiled plans to finalise an interim trade deal by mid-2022 as a precursor to a free trade agreement. The two sides also set a target for doubling bilateral trade by 2030 and adopted the Roadmap 2030 to elevate ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership over the next decade.

These actions are likely to generate some 25,000 new jobs in India. The roadmap lists activities and initiatives to be pursued in five key areas – trade and economy, defence and security, climate action, health and people-to-people contacts – over the next decade. Ahead of the summit, Johnson announced a trade and investment package with India worth £1 billion.

The Enhanced Trade Partnership will see Britain open up its fisheries sector to more Indian players, facilitate more opportunities for nurses, recognise Indian seafarers’ certificates and 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 through the acceptance of the “UK Certificates of Free Sale”.

The two sides will also work towards reciprocal opening up of legal services.

British PM Johnson announced a trade and investment package with India worth £1 billion, including a £240-million investment by the Serum Institute of India (SII) in the UK.

The two countries also signed eight agreements, including a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on a migration and mobility partnership that will facilitate legal movement of students and professionals and strengthen cooperation in combating illegal migration. The MoU creates a new scheme under which up to 3,000 young Indian professionals can every year avail of employment opportunities in the UK for two years without being subject to a labour market test.

The other agreements covered emerging technologies, digital infrastructure and data policies, cooperation in telecommunications and ICT, customs cooperation, and cooperation on medical products regulation.

Modi and Johnson agreed to advance defence ties to a new level, with focus on maritime and industrial collaboration. They agreed to new cooperation on maritime domain awareness, including new agreements on maritime information-sharing. The UK was invited to join India’s naval information fusion centre and an exercise programme that includes tri-lateral exercises.

India and the UK are also working to conclude a Logistics Memorandum of Understanding between their armed forces. They will build on existing collaboration on India’s future combat air engine requirement by working together on the indigenous development of the Light Combat Aircraft Mark 2.