NEW DELHI: Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will embark on a two-day visit to the UK on Monday to rejuvenate strategic and security ties between the two countries, including possible collaboration to jointly develop fighter jets and other military platforms.
The defence ministry, announcing the visit, said Singh and his British counterpart Grant Shapps are expected to discuss a wide range of issues in the spheres of defence, security and industrial cooperation.
It said on Sunday that Singh is also expected to call on British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Minister David Cameron.
The defence minister will be accompanied by a high-level delegation comprising senior officials from the three services, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and department of defence production.
“He will also interact with the CEOs and industry leaders of UK Defence Industry and meet with the Indian community there,” the ministry said in a statement.
Singh’s talks with Defence Secretary Shapps would largely focus on sharing of critical technology and expanding bilateral industrial defence cooperation, people familiar with the matter said.
The two sides are expected to discuss collaboration in joint development of fighter aircraft and other military platforms, they said.
Singh and Shapps are also expected to delve into the situation in the Indo-Pacific, West Asia and Ukraine, the people said.
In April 2022, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his then British counterpart Boris Johnson had agreed on a new and expanded India-UK defence partnership.
During his visit to India, Johnson had announced that the UK is creating an Open General Export Licence (OGEL) for India to “reduce bureaucracy and slashing delivery times for defence procurement.
The British prime minister also said that the UK will help India in the co-development of military hardware, including indigenous production of fighter jets.
A statement issued after the talks between Modi and Johnson had said the two leaders reiterated their commitment to “transform” defence and security cooperation as a key pillar of the India-UK Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
The India-UK relationship was elevated to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership during the India-UK virtual summit held between Modi and Johnson in May 2021.
At the summit, the two sides adopted a 10-year roadmap to expand ties in the key areas of trade and economy, defence and security, climate change and people-to-people connections among others.
Both sides are also keen to expand cooperation in the maritime sphere.
In June, 2021, the UK posted a liaison officer at the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre (IFC) that has emerged as a key hub in tracking movements of ships and other developments in the Indian Ocean region.
The UK joined a select group of countries such as the US, Australia, Japan and France to depute officials at the Gurgaon-based facility.
The Indian Navy established the IFC-IOR in 2018 to effectively keep track of the shipping traffic as well as other critical developments in the region under a collaborative framework with like-minded countries.