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Indo-UK Strategic Partnership by Lt Gen PC Katoch

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Author: Lt Gen PC Katoch, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SC (Retd)
A hallmark of this strategic partnership has been British support for India gaining permanent UNSC membership and being an important interlocutor for India in the EU, G8 and other global contexts. On the negative side Pakistan’s proxy war against India runs unabatedly but Western aid to Pakistan has never been linked to Pakistan curbing radicalisation, shutting down terror infrastructure against India and not even linked to opening of India’s land route through Pakistan to Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Indo-UK bilateral relations have a long shared history and cultural intermingling since the British rule in India and beyond including with the Commonwealth ties. But it is also true that in terms of geopolitics and strategic issues, UK has no option but to tag along with the US and hence national interests of India and UK many times do not coincide. Then there are unsavoury historical incidents like at Skardu during Partition, wherein Skardu that should have been part of India was deliberately given to Pakistan because of deceit of the British. The scars of British atrocities and loot from India may be things of the past but there have been permanent scars. For example, use of Indian troops in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre was a major reason for Nehru’s disdain of military–a legacy that continues to date with adverse effect on India’s national security.


Strategic Partnership

Indo-UK bilateral relations received a major boost in 2004 when the relationship was upgraded to ‘Strategic Partnership’. The 2004 Joint Declaration called for intensifying cooperation in civil nuclear energy, space, defence, combating terrorism, economic ties, science and technology, education and culture. In 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron called for a new ‘Special Relationship’ with India. He visited India twice (in July 2010 and February 2013) calling for ‘Enhanced Partnership for the Future’ and a ‘stronger, wider, deeper partnership’ on respective occasions. In 2012, UK’s trade offices in Hyderabad and Chandigarh were upgraded to Deputy High Commissions. A hallmark of this strategic partnership has been British support for India gaining permanent UNSC membership and being an important interlocutor for India in the EU, G8 and other global contexts. During his visit to India this year Cameron was accompanied by the largest British trade delegation ever to visit India, leaders of the India-UK CEO Forum, members of Parliament and University Vice Chancellors. He laid a wreath at the   becoming the first serving UK Prime Minister to do so and signed the condolence book describing the 1919 massacre as “a deeply shameful event in British history”. MoUs signed during his visit included: Collaboration in Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defence; on Skills Development; collaboration in Community Colleges and School Leadership Programmes.

Three Indian Presidents have visited UK, last one during 2009. The ‘Strategic Partnership’ was signed during visit of our Prime Minister to UK. Queen Elizabeth has visited India thrice. Besides, there are regular ministerial level exchanges and inter-parliamentary contacts including through the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. We also have an India-British Friendship Group in our Parliament.

Science And Technology

A ‘Science and Innovation Council’ has been set up that holds regular ministerial level meetings.  Joint research projects with joint funding are ongoing in fields of nano-science, biotechnology, telecom, solar energy, weather forecasting etc. In 2013, the India-UK Programme of Cooperation (PoC) on Industrial R&D was signed between Department of Science and Technology (India) and the Technology Strategy Board of UK. Post the bilateral Civil Nuclear Cooperation Declaration in 2010, several joint research projects are in progress. 


An institutionalised defence dialogue at Defence Secretary level exists. There are regular military exchange visits as well as exchanges for training of officers, plus joint exercises. India procures defence equipment from UK and there is collaboration in R&D between DSTL of UK and DRDO of India.


The UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI) launched in 2005 forges collaborations for schools and higher educational institutions including joint research. The India-UK Education Forum launched in 2008 holds regular meetings at ministerial level. Some 30,000 Indian students are presently studying in UK which is the second largest foreign students segment after China.

India-UK Round Table

The India-UK Round Table was set up as a non-government channel for long range and ‘out of box’ thinking on the future of the bilateral relationship.

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