With Sunak at helm, UK should ‘up the game’ for stronger ties with India: Raab
Britain-India relationship requires constant focus to deliver results, says former secretary
Dominic Raab. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL/AFP via Getty Images)
PRIME minister Rishi Sunak should leverage his Indian heritage for forging stronger ties between the UK and India in trade and defence, former foreign secretary Dominic Raab has said.
“Britain remains uniquely placed to reap the dividends of a deeper friendship with India” with Sunak as the prime minister but “we’ll need to up our game across the whole of government” to achieve it, he wrote in The Telegraph.
His comments come against the backdrop of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the US last week when pledges were on trade, investment and security cooperation between Washington and New Delhi.
US President Biden and Modi announced several deals including allowing General Electric to produce jet engines in India for its air force and enabling New Delhi to buy US-made military-grade naval drones.
Raab suggested that the UK should seize the “enormous” trade opportunities with India as the south Asian nation is predicted to outstrip the Euro area within 30 years in terms of the size of the economy.
Although the two countries have been holding negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA), it needed greater efforts to deliver results, said Raab who resigned as foreign secretary in April this year over the allegations of bullying which he denied.
The FTA talks, which began in early 2022 were scheduled to conclude by Diwali last year but they were delayed due to certain tricky issues cropping up between the two countries. The two countries completed the 10th round of negotiations in the second week of June.
“FTA negotiations were launched, cooperation intensified during Covid on the supply of vital goods from Personal Protective Equipment to paracetamol, with pledges to collaborate on tech and critical minerals, and a commitment to pursue mutual defence procurement. But this relationship requires constant focus to deliver results,” the former deputy prime minister wrote.
“A formal announcement on Tata Group’s plans for Jaguar Land Rover to build an electric vehicle battery plant in Somerset is still pending. Getting it over the line should be a priority.”
He blamed the “ossified Whitehall bureaucracy” for giving France “the edge over British aerospace firms in supplying India the new fighter jets it needs.
According to him, India ticks a lot of boxes with its comparative advantage over China in the tech sector and “there is also a case for India and Western economies to collaborate to ensure the dependable supply of critical minerals for high-tech manufacturing.”
“India’s economic rise and geopolitical salience make it a linchpin partner, particularly as a counterweight to China. India and China have long viewed each other with deep-seated suspicion, which simmers close to war along the 2,100-mile border separating the world’s largest democracy from its biggest authoritarian state.”
He asked if the UK was making progress on the country joining the Quad Alliance, the security cooperation arrangement involving the US, India, Japan and Australia.
He, however, said India’s policy was defined by its interest, without being “fettered by Western ties.”
“India’s foreign minister Jaishankar echoes nineteenth century Prime Minister Lord Palmerston in focusing on interests over allies. This can be maddening, as with India’s refusal to condemn Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. But as a leading member of the non-aligned group, India has far-reaching influence amongst developing countries. That could be useful to the West in areas of common interest, like China,” Raab wrote.