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Britain labels India as a ‘like-minded’ partner in push for closer military ties

HMS Queen Elizabeth pictured next to four-storey buildings as it transits the Suez Canal. While in India, the CSG is taking part in the most demanding exercise ever undertaken between the UK and India, involving all three military services (Image courtesy: FCDO UK)

The United Kingdom has said that the visit of its Carrier Strike Group (CSG) underlines the UK's increasing defence, security and maritime cooperation with India and the wider region.

UK Navy chief Admiral Tony Radakin, its Chief of Defence Staff Nick Carter and country's Foreign Secretary Liz Truss were in New Delhi on Friday forging closer diplomatic, defence and security partnership with India as the first-ever joint Tri-Service Exercise between the two countries kicked off near the Mumbai coast.

Britain believes that the visit of HMS Queen Elizabeth – the largest and most powerful vessel ever constructed for the British Navy – and some of her CSG escorts to Mumbai is a clear sign of the growing defence and maritime cooperation with India.

The UK also sees developing the security and defence relationship with India, the world's largest democracy, as a key part of its Indo-Pacific tilt.

"The arrival of the Carrier Strike Group in India this weekend represents the UK's Indo-Pacific tilt in action. This is a true symbol of Global Britain, working closely with like-minded partners like India," said Truss who will be visiting the CSG spearhead ship in Mumbai today.

During her meeting with the External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Friday, the UK Foreign Secretary discussed measures to ramp up UK-India defence and security ties and boost strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region.

It takes forward the joint work agreed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UK PM Boris Johnson in the landmark 2030 Roadmap on maritime security, cyber security and counter terrorism signed earlier this year.

"Closer defence and security partnerships between the UK and India underpin deeper economic ties and make both countries, as well as the wider region, safer," said Truss.

"We need to protect our sea and trade routes and, operating from a position of strength, be hard-headed in defending our interests and challenging unfair practices," she added.

Calling India an essential partner in ensuring a free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific, the UK Foreign Secretary highlighted the need to strengthen such links with fast-growing economies and like-minded partners in the region and build "a network of liberty" around the globe.

During their bilateral talks, both Ministers also discussed in detail enhancing cooperation in the key priority areas of trade and investments, people-to-people relationship, health partnership, climate change, science and innovation and defence and security.

Jaishankar said that there was a "productive exchange of views on Indo-Pacific, Afghanistan, the Gulf and Africa" during his meeting with the British diplomat.

They also agreed to strengthen cooperation in West Asia and the Indo-Pacific, on countering terrorism and radical extremism, and addressing emerging challenges in the cyber and space domains.

"We have significant movement on a number of pillars, including one of the pillars you dealt with in your previous capacity, trade one. And, I think there have also been a number of geopolitical and political developments in our region, closer to your region, some concerning our activities, some dealing with you," said the EAM before his meeting with Truss.

India UK

According to the External Affairs Ministry, both ministers also welcomed the progress in delivering the Enhanced Trade Partnership announced at the Virtual Summit and underlined the need for launching FTA negotiations at the earliest, with a focus on negotiating an interim agreement that can deliver quick gains to businesses in both India and the UK.

Meanwhile, in Mumbai today, the Foreign Secretary will join the Queen Elizabeth Carrier at sea to tour the vessel and observe live exercises.

Chief of Defence Staff Carter, who held talks with his Indian counterpart General Bipin Rawat in Delhi on Friday to discuss regional security, is also visiting Mumbai to see the CSG in action.

While in India, the CSG is taking part in the most demanding exercise ever undertaken between the UK and India, involving all three military services.

Exercise Konkan Shakti 2021 will also involve Dutch warship Evertsen which began its training voyage with the CSG in May.

"A strengthened partnership with India is a key pillar of the UK's tilt to the Indo-Pacific. Our Carrier Strike group visit represents an important step towards our goal of establishing a maritime partnership with India in support of mutual security objectives in the Indian Ocean," said UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace.

During her Mumbai visit, the UK Foreign Secretary will also visit the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel in Mumbai to lay a wreath at the memorial for those killed in the 2008 terrorist attacks.

In the evening, she will also participate in business engagements, welcoming senior business leaders and guests from the world of education, film, sport and politics onto HMS Defender, a Type 45 Destroyer, where the UK will showcase its world-leading tech and innovation in defence, healthcare, science and climate change.

Also Read: UK Navy chief in Delhi as joint exercise kicks off in Mumbai