Greater India-UK collaboration in Indo-Pacific to be key part of roadmap for bilateral relations
Greater collaboration in the Indo-Pacific region on issues such as maritime security and climate change is set to be a key component of a 10-year roadmap being framed for the India-UK relationship, Britain’s acting high commissioner Jan Thompson said on Tuesday.
The two sides are not yet ready for a free trade agreement (FTA), though the enhanced trade partnership launched by commerce minister Piyush Goyal and UK secretary of state for international trade Elizabeth Truss on Monday is a step in that direction, Thompson told a virtual news briefing.
The 10-year roadmap figured prominently in recent discussions in London between foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and UK permanent under secretary Philip Barton, with the focus on greater cooperation on climate change, trade and investment, and defence and security. The UK is also conducting a review for a new global strategy that is expected “to point to a decisive shift towards greater engagement with the Indo-Pacific”, she said.
The UK’s focus on the Indo-Pacific comes close on the heels of key steps taken by other major European states. Germany recently unveiled its Indo-Pacific policy and France has appointed its first ambassador for the region, who will work closely with India to implement a joint vision for the Indo-Pacific.
“There is a lot of potential to collaborate with India in the Indo-Pacific region. Part of the UK’s new international posture is likely to be a very significant tilt around the Indo-Pacific,” Thompson said.
“We have a very similar vision to India, in terms of wanting to see a free and open Indo-Pacific region that supports the rules-based international system, there is a lot of synergy there,” she said, identifying maritime security, piracy, trade and investment and climate security as potential areas for cooperation.
The new enhanced trade partnership launched on Monday is aimed at addressing trade barriers and “difficult areas”, and could lead to an FTA in future. “For now, we are not yet ready to launch a formal FTA but the enhanced trade partnership is very much a stepping stone towards that,” Thompson said.
The UK is the second fastest growing G20 investor in India over the past decade and bilateral trade grew by 10% last year. Since 2000, UK firms have invested nearly £22 billion in India, while the combined revenue of Indian companies in Britain has grown by 87% in the past five years.
Thompson said UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab is expected to visit India in next few months, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson too is keen to come to the country.
In response to a question on the UK’s position on Hong Kong, Thompson said Britain is committed to “upholding Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy [and] rights and freedoms under the ‘one country, two systems’ framework”. She added, “We have been concerned about some of the measures China has been taking in respect of Hong Kong, for example the national security law.”
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