• Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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Rajnath Singh meets Sunak, concludes successful UK trip

Singh called on Sunak at 10 Downing Street on Wednesday (10) evening

Rajnath Singh meets prime minister Rishi Sunak in London. (ANI Photo)

By: Pramod Thomas

INDIAN Defence Minister Rajnath Singh concluded his visit to the UK on Thursday (11) after a “warm meeting” with prime minister Rishi Sunak and interacting with members of the Indian diaspora at a community reception.

Singh called on Sunak at 10 Downing Street on Wednesday (10) evening for discussions on a wide range of issues across bilateral defence and economic ties.

He also gifted a Ram Darbar statue to Sunak, Britain’s first Hindu Prime Minister, during the meeting also attended by national security adviser Sir Tim Barrow.

“Had a very warm meeting with the prime minister, Shri Rishi Sunak in London,” Rajnath Singh said in a statement on social media.

“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 the UK could work together for strengthening a peaceful and stable global rules-based order,” he said.

According to the Indian Ministry of Defence readout of the meeting, Sunak agreed with the minister on the need for the UK and India to work in tandem and expressed hope that the ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations could be brought to a successful conclusion soon.

India and the UK are currently holding the 14th round of FTA negotiations with the aim of significantly enhancing the annual GBP 36-billion bilateral partnership.

Sunak is said to have 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.

Meanwhile, Singh briefed Sunak about his “positive interactions” with the UK defence industry and the “new positive energy” in the bilateral defence relationship during his tour of the UK, the first by an Indian Defence Minister in 22 years.

He also met foreign secretary David Cameron at the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and reflected on the new momentum and direction of the India-UK partnership, symbolised by intense engagements at various levels.

Singh “outlined his goal of integrating defence industries of both countries including through supply chain integration to build resilience. He also emphasised the importance of bilateral start-up level interaction, and identification and discussion of joint projects which India and UK could implement together,” the Ministry of Defence said.

Later on Wednesday evening, Singh interacted with nearly 200 persons of Indian origin at a community reception organised by the High Commission of India in London.

Indian military ex-servicemen and family members of World War II veterans were also present at the event, during which the minister addressed the gathering to apprise them of the fast pace of growth and development underway in India.

“It is projected that by 2075-2080, India will be the No. 1 country in terms of economic ranking. This is the image of India today because of the fast pace of growth,” said Singh in an address to the gathering in Hindi, which was later briefly summarised by Indian high commissioner to the UK, Vikram Doraiswami, in English.

Singh also shared aspects of a recent article in the ‘Global Times’, a Chinese government publication, entitled ‘What I feel about the Bharat Narrative in India’ by Zhang Jiadong.

“Even the Chinese government has been forced to accept that India today is an economic and strategic power, as expressed by a writer reflecting the Chinese government’s views. We don’t consider anyone an opponent but there is a perception that India-China relations are not good – though we want good relations with all countries. Yes, against that perception, even our neighbouring country China accepts India’s growing heft as a global power today,” he said.

The minister’s packed schedule during the three-day visit covered bilateral talks and co-chairing a UK-India Defence Industry CEOs roundtable with his counterpart, defence secretary Grant Shapps.

(PTI)

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