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India, UK bilateral ties in a new world order keep China in the crosshairs

India, UK bilateral ties in a new world order keep China in the crosshairs

India and the UK are all set to revamp their relationship after momentous changes in both countries. The UK is set out to rebuild a new identity post-Brexit while India is recalibrating relationships in the wake of the unexpected Chinese aggression.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accepted British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's invitation for the G7 summit to be held in the UK next year. Notably, the UK has also invited Australia and South Korea besides India. Johnson himself is India's chief guest for the Republic Day on January 26.

<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/dec/15/boris-johnson-to-visit-india-in-january-in-bid-to-transform-g7"><strong>The Guardian said</strong> </a>that the British Prime Minister's visit to India in January is part of plan to widen G7 into broader grouping of democracies to challenge China and other authoritarian states. It said: "The idea of a "D10" grouping ideologically committed to combating the match of authoritarian states chimes with Joe Biden's plan to hold a summit of democracies…"

The British newspaper adds: "China will view any attempt to set up an alliance of democracies with suspicion, and has been warily watching a succession of European countries taking a greater interest in the Indo-Pacific including Germany and France."

<img class="wp-image-44351 size-full" src="https://indianarrative.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/12/IndiaUKRelationsModiRaab.jpg" alt="" width="889" height="685" /> British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab meets Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi (Photo: @UKinIndia/Twitter)

India too is upbeat about a swing in relations. Modi has called for "an ambitious and outcome-oriented 360-degree roadmap covering trade and investment, defence and security, migration and mobility, education, energy, climate change and health."

For the British Prime Minister too, the India visit will be the first major bilateral visit since taking office wherein he is also looking at stepping up British engagement with the Indo-Pacific region.

Besides Modi, British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has met with a slew of dignitaries including External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar, Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank and Foreign Secretary Harshvardhan Shringla and other senior leaders.

Raab is here to lay strong foundations for Johnson's visit in January. China is definitely on the minds of the two nations as evident from the invite extended to Modi for the G7 meeting as well as the fact that the term "Info-Pacific" is being used in official communiques by the British.

The China ghost lurks. Just before Raab touched down in India, the world was splashed with information on how China has embedded lakhs of communist party members in sensitive institutions and companies across the world, including the UK and India. Also on the agenda of the two nations are emerging technologies like cybersecurity, telecoms networks, 5G technology and how to make these more secure.

Elaborating on the talks, S Jaishankar said: "The situation in Afghanistan, the evolution of the Indo-Pacific and developments in the Middle East were among the subjects that came up. The challenges posed by terrorism and radicalism were a shared concern."

The British Foreign minister said: "As we are coming to the end of the transition of the Brexit phase, I think you can expect the UK to be more active and energetic in particular the Indo-Pacific tilt. We spent our time talking about Covid and what we can do."

The Indo-Pacific will guide year 2021 as well. <a href="https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/12/6641c518ff97-britain-to-send-aircraft-carrier-strike-group-to-waters-near-japan.html"><strong>Japanese news agency Kyodo News</strong> </a>reported early December that the British Royal Navy's aircraft carrier, Queen Elizabeth, plans to hold joint maritime exercises with US forces as well as Japan's Self-Defense Forces near the Nansei Islands chain in southwestern Japan. With this, the UK too has joined other European nations in locking their focus on the region.

New Delhi and London are looking at augmenting relations in almost every important sphere. Economics and trade top the list. India is host to over 400 British companies while there are 842 Indian companies in the UK with a combined turnover of £41.2 billion, (approximately $56 billion). As the UK exits from Europe, it is looking around for newer trading partners and markets. India fits that list.

The two are already in the middle of one of the most enduring partnerships – the race to develop the coronavirus vaccine. The Oxford University is in partnership with the Serum Institute of India for the manufacture and supply of the vaccine – where the two nations also fit in the requirements of smaller countries.

In the coming year, both countries will be prominent on the global stage – India will join the United Nations Security Council while the UK will head the G7 and also the UN Climate Change Conference. As both chart out a more prominent role in world affairs in a fast-shifting geo-political climate, it makes sense to bond together over common goals..