India-UK Relations: UPSC Current Affairs

India UK relations

Upgrade your UPSC exam preparation with your daily dose of Current Affairs in our Current Affairs Dialog box-News Gists for UPSC. In our today’s edition, we will talk about India-UK relations. This topic has relevance to the CSE syllabus in the following ways:

For Prelims: Current Events of National and International Importance.

For Mains: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests. 

Here is yesterday’s edition of the Current Affairs Dialog box in case you missed reading it.

Why in the News?

Recently, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson arrived in India on a two-day visit. This was Johnson’s maiden visit to India after becoming UK PM.

Probable Question

New geopolitical realities demand a new strategic vision. It is time to seize the moment and lay the foundations of a partnership that can respond adequately to the challenges of the 21st century. Comment 

Key Highlights of the Visit

  • India-U.K. defence partnership: The U.K. agreed to issue an Open General Export Licence (OGEL) to support greater defence and security collaboration in the coming decade. 
    • The OGEL will reduce bureaucratic interference and shorten the delivery time for India’s defence procurement. 
    • This is the first British OGEL in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Free Trade Agreement: Both sides have decided to do their best to close the pact by the end of this year.
    • In the last few months, India has concluded Free Trade Agreements with UAE and Australia.
    • In January 2022, India and the UK managed to conclude the first round of talks for an India–UK Free Trade Agreement.
    • FTA with India would provide a boost to its ‘Global Britain’ ambitions as the U.K. has sought to expand its markets beyond Europe since Brexit. 
  • On Ukraine: India stressed an immediate ceasefire and resolution of the problem through dialogue and diplomacy.
    • India also reiterated the importance of respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all countries.
  • On Indo-Pacific: Talking about the Indo-Pacific, India emphasized on maintaining a free, open, inclusive and rules-based order in the region.
    • India welcomed the U.K.’s decision to join the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative. 
    • The U.K. is a regional power in the Indo-Pacific as it possesses naval facilities in Oman, Singapore, Bahrain, Kenya, and British Indian Ocean Territory.
  • On Afghanistan: India reiterated its support for a peaceful, stable and secure Afghanistan and for an inclusive and representative government. 
    • It is also necessary that Afghan territory is not used to spread terrorism in other countries.

Areas of Cooperation

  • Comprehensive Strategic Partnership: Despite the challenge posed by the Ukraine crisis, the India-U.K. relationship has been on an upward trajectory, exemplified by the conclusion of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2021.
    • The agreement also established a 2030 Roadmap for India-U.K. relations, which primarily outlines the partnership plans for the bilateral relationship.
  • Climate Change: UK PM and Prime Minister Narendra Modi last met on the sidelines of the COP26 in Glasgow in November 2021 where both leaders focused on the India–U.K. Climate Partnership. 
  • Military exercise: In 2021, HMS Queen Elizabeth and the Carrier Strike Group took part in a military exercise with the Indian Navy in the Bay of Bengal.
  • New Areas of Cooperation: The newer areas of cooperation — namely, fintech, market regulation, sustainable and green finance, and cyber security — have emerged as the new frontiers of engagement.
    • The notable success of the collaboration with Oxford-Astra Zeneca and the Serum Institute of India in producing Covishield vaccines in India has been just one of many instances of potential successful cooperation. 

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Challenges

  • Legacy Issues: India’s post-colonial engagement with Britain has been riddled with multiple contradictions. India’s lingering post-colonial resentments and the UK’s unacceptable claim for a special role in the Subcontinent generated unending friction.
    • Both India and the U.K. are serious about overcoming legacy issues and engaging in robust dialogues to promote cooperation on strategic and defence issues both in the Indo-Pacific as well as at the global level.
  • Domestic Dynamics of Britain: The domestic dynamics of Britain have also tended to sour ties with India.
    • For a long, it was a reigning assumption in Delhi that the Labour Party was empathetic to India while the Conservative Party was not.
    • Although this view turned out to be quite the opposite, antipathy towards India existed in one way or the other.
      • The Labour Party had become rather hostile to India’s internal matters, including Kashmir.

Conclusion

  • As India seeks to carve out a new role for itself in the evolving global order as a ‘leading power’ and the U.K. recalibrates its strategic outlook post-Brexit, this is a unique moment in India-U.K. ties.
  • The visit of the UK PM signifies the importance of India’s role in the dynamically changing global order.
  • New geopolitical realities demand a new strategic vision. It is time to seize the moment and lay the foundations of a partnership that can respond adequately to the challenges of the 21st century.
What is an FTA?

An FTA is an agreement between two countries wherein it allows the free flow of goods and services to and from both sides, removing all tariff barriers to boost trade with one another.

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