London, Mar 31 (PTI) Deepening security and defence ties with India and the importance of all countries reducing strategic dependency on Russia in light of the Ukraine conflict will be the focal points of discussions when British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss arrives in New Delhi on Thursday.
The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said the high-level ministerial visit was part of a wider diplomatic push and comes ahead of NATO and G7 meetings next week to tackle “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine”. The minister wants to counter Russia’s aggression and reduce global strategic dependence on the country and her agenda includes progressing talks to develop defence-related trade with India, including innovative security technology, to strengthen defence ties with the world’s largest democracy.
“Deeper ties between Britain and India will boost security in the Indo-Pacific and globally, and create jobs and opportunities in both countries,” said Truss, ahead of her visit – expected to be a short day-long tour. “This matters even more in the context of Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine and underlines the need for free democracies to work closer together in areas like defence, trade and cyber security. India is an economic and tech powerhouse, the world’s largest democracy and a great friend of Britain, and I want to build an even closer relationship between our two nations,” she said.
In her meeting with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, the minister will say that Russia’s action in Ukraine underlines the importance of democracies working closer together to “deter aggressors, reduce vulnerability to coercion and strengthen global security”. The ministers will go on to address the India-UK Strategic Futures Forum on Thursday to set out their vision for the long-term relationship between the two countries.
As part of the Enhanced Cyber Partnership agreed within the UK-India Roadmap 2030, the UK minister is set to announce a new joint cyber security programme with the aim of protecting online infrastructure in both countries from attacks. Under the initiative, India and the UK will work together to increase cyber security and carry out joint exercises to practise combatting threats from cybercriminals and ransomware, the FCDO said.
The UK will also confirm plans to hold the first Strategic Tech Dialogue, a ministerial-level summit on emerging technology, during her visit. On the energy front, the visiting Foreign Secretary will confirm GBP 70 million of British International Investment (BII) funding to support renewable energy use in India, aimed at helping India build renewable energy capacity and develop solar power in the region. Plans for a new platform to allow British investors to bid for green infrastructure, technology, and business opportunities in India is also set to be confirmed.
Current volatility in oil and gas prices and energy security concerns, as a result of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, underscore the importance of India’s green transition and move towards energy self-sufficiency, the FCDO noted. Closer maritime cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, involving the UK joining India’s Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative and becoming a lead partner on maritime security issues and coordinating work with key partners in Southeast Asia, is also on the ministerial agenda.
“This stronger partnership on maritime security builds on the visit to India last year by HMS Queen Elizabeth and the Carrier Strike Group (CSG) – a symbol of the UK’s world leading defence capability. The CSG took part in the most demanding exercise ever undertaken between the UK and India, involving all three military services,” the FCDO said. This will mark the second trip to India by Truss as Foreign Secretary, following her visit in October 2021, having previously visited in her role as Trade Secretary.
The FCDO stressed that strengthening ties with India has been a “priority” for the Foreign Secretary, with a focus on the ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations between the two countries.
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