India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Rishi Sunak agreed on the need for the two nations to work together in trade, defence and technology sectors
Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh called on UK Prime Minister Rajnath Singh at 10, Downing Street in London on Wednesday. During the meeting, Sunak expressed hope that the ongoing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) could be brought to a successful conclusion soon.
Rajnath Singh and Rishi Sunak agreed on the need for the two nations to work together in trade, defence and technology sectors, Ministry of Defence said in a press release. He expressed the keenness of the UK government to strengthen defence and security pillars of the bilateral partnership.
Notably, India and the UK are negotiating a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Talks for FTA between India and the UK started in 2022. The thirteenth round of negotiations for the UK-India Free Trade Agreement concluded in December, with both sides resolving that they would continue to negotiate towards a comprehensive and ambitious trade pact.
“Prime Minister Sunak fully agreed with the Raksha Mantri on the need for UK and India to work in the domains of trade, defence and technology. In particular, he expressed hope that the ongoing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations could be brought to a successful conclusion soon,” Ministry of Defence said in a press release.
“He also underlined his keenness, and that of his Government, to strengthen the defence and security pillar of the bilateral relationship, including through Government backing for stronger business and technology partnerships with Indian counterpart entities,” it added.
The meeting between the two leaders was “warm and cordial,” according to the press release. During the meeting, Rajnath Singh highlighted that both nations have made significant strides in moulding and recrafting the historic ties into a modern, multifaceted and mutually beneficial partnership, under the direction of the leaders of both nations.
Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh recalled the recent enhancement in bilateral defence engagement, spanning joint exercises, training, capability building, increased interoperability, military-to-military ties especially in the maritime sector.
He emphasised the ongoing efforts to enhance defence industrial cooperation, including in the technology domain. Rajnath briefed Rishi Sunak about his positive interactions with the UK defence industry and the new positive energy in the bilateral defence relationship.
“The Raksha Mantri stated that the UK and other like-minded countries should work with India for strengthening a peaceful and stable global rules-based order, including through partnering India in its inexorable rise, which can be strengthened, reinforced and speeded up with friendly collaboration,” Ministry of Defence said in a press release.
During the meeting, Rajnath Singh gifted a Ram Darbar statue to Rishi Sunak. The meeting was also attended by the UK National Security Adviser, Tim Barrow. During the meeting, he stated that PM Narendra Modi is leading the quest of 1.4 billion Indians towards the national objective of becoming a developed nation by mid-21st century.
In the meeting with Rishi Sunak, Singh noted that PM Modi’s “efforts have borne remarkable fruits, growth is sustainably on the upswing, poverty has been reduced drastically, and a business-friendly architecture has been put in place.” He expressed the readiness of the Indian government at the international level to partner with friends like the UK to strengthen the rules-based world order.
In a post shared on X, Rajnath Singh stated, “Had a very warm meeting with the UK Prime Minister, Shri @rishisunak in London. I had the opportunity to discuss a wide range of issues with him. We discussed issues pertaining to defence, economic cooperation and how India and UK could work together for strengthening a peaceful and stable global rules-based order.”
Currently, Rajnath Singh is on an official visit to UK. It is the first visit by a sitting Indian Defence Minister to the UK in more than 20 years.
Earlier, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held “insightful deliberations” with UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron on boosting ties between the two nations.
Taking to X, Rajnath Singh stated, “Insightful deliberations with the UK Foreign Secretary, Mr. David Cameron on boosting India-UK ties and deepening cooperation between both the countries.”
The UK is seeking greater access to the Indian market for items such as dairy products, automobiles including electric vehicles, and Scotch whiskey. India has a high import duty on automobiles (100%) and whiskey (150%). Indian industry has expressed its willingness to substantially reduce tariffs in automobiles and whiskey, provided London reciprocates as per the Indian conditions.
The India-UK FTA negotiations was launched on January 13, 2022 and 24 out of total 26 chapters have been mutually agreed and the two partners converge on many points in the remaining chapters, he said. The talks are lingering, initially due to a change in the leadership in the UK, and later due to the differences between the two sides over violent protests by Khalistani elements in London and other British cities.
Compared to the ongoing talks with the UK, India expeditiously concluded two major FTAs in 2022. The first round of negotiations for a India-UAE Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was held on September, 2021, the FTA was signed February 18, 2022 and it entered into force from May 1, 2022.