Areas and Instruments of Cooperation

1.Political Relations

    • India and UK are bound by strong ties of history and culture
    • India’s multifaceted bilateral relationship with the UK intensified with its upgradation to a Strategic Partnership in 2004
    • Both countries adopted a Joint Declaration titled ‘India-UK: towards a new and dynamic partnership’ which envisages annual Summits and regular meetings between Foreign Ministers
    • It also outlined areas for future cooperation in civil nuclear energy, space, defence, combating terrorism, economic ties, science & technology, education and culture
    • In 2010, the relations were elevated to ‘Enhanced Partnership for the Future
    • The UK supports India’s proposal for permanent membership of the UNSC and is also an important interlocutor for India in the EU, G8, G20 and global contexts
    • The Parliaments of India and the UK enjoy traditionally close relations
    • A new group of Lords, MPs and prominent British Indians of Conservative Party, called the Conservative friends of India group, was launched in 2012 with the purpose of a more meaningful relationship between the Conservative party, British Indian community, and India
    • Also, the India-UK Round Table was set up as a non-government channel for long range and ‘out of box’ thinking on the future of our bilateral relationship
    • Politically, relations between India and the UK occur mostly through the multilateral organisations of which both are members, such as the Commonwealth of Nations, the World Trade Organization and the Asian Development Bank
    • Bilateral Institutional Engagements include:
      • The India-UK Foreign Office Consultations provide an opportunity to review the entire range of bilateral relations, including political, economic, commercial, scientific, regional and international cooperation
      • The India-UK Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Dialogue discusses issues such as NPT, Civil Nuclear Cooperation, INF & New START, CWC & BWC, JCPOA, Gulf, DPRK, China, Pakistan and Export License
      • The India-UK JWG on Counter Terrorism condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, exchanges views on threats posed by globally proscribed terrorist entities, reaffirms to work together
      • In addition, India and UK also regularly meet under the UN Dialogue, Policy Planning Dialogue, Strategic Dialogue, Cyber Dialogue and Home Affairs Dialogue to discuss cooperation in specific sectoral areas

2.Defence relations

    • After Independence from the British Raj in 1947, India embarked on its own foreign and national defence policy that was characterized by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)
      • With the colonial experience fresh in their minds, India’s policymakers chose this approach to not get caught between the great powers in their cold war
    • After the end of the Cold War, the two countries entered into a strategic partnership in 2004
      • Annual summits and meetings between heads of government and foreign ministers were envisaged, as was cooperation in the areas of combating terrorism, civil nuclear activities, and civil space programs, amongst others
    • In 2015, the Defence and International Security Partnership framework was unveiled, calling for enhanced cyber, defence, and maritime collaboration and stating UK’s support for projects under the “Make in India” initiative
    • Around 70 defence related companies across the UK supply various goods for aircraft/helicopter manufacturing/overhaul at HAL like ejection seats, fuel tank kits, hydraulic pumps, engine spares etc and support legacy platforms like Jaguar, Mirage & Kiran
    • Maritime cooperation is another area where engagement is increasing. UK is deploying Carrier Strike Group in Indian Ocean region this year in line with its strategic tilt to Indo-Pacific

3.Economic and Commercial Relations

    • The India-UK economic relations received a vibrant upward direction after the establishment of Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) in 2005 to tackle trade and investment barriers on both sides and promote business links
    • In 2021, total trade between India and UK amounted to USD 13.11 Billion
    • As of 2021, India is UK’s 15th largest trading partner, and the UK is India’s 18th largest trading partner with manufacturing exports accounting for over 90 percent of India’s export to the UK, consisting of clothing, medicinal and pharmaceutical products, metal manufacturers, organic chemicals, and precious stones
    • India has invested in 120 projects and created over 5,000 jobs in the UK to become their second-largest source of foreign direct investment (FDI) only behind the United States
    • In the recent Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) meeting of 2020, Both sides agreed to remove barriers to trade as part of a roadmap to a Free Trade Agreement
    • Also, negotiations for an India-UK free trade agreement (FTA) are set to begin early next year as officials on both sides continue their engagement following the conclusion of working groups, allowing both to establish selective gains in commodities and services

4.Nuclear Cooperation

    • Both nations, have signed a Civil Nuclear Cooperation Declaration in 2010 which will help promotion and facilitation of cooperation in the nuclear field including nuclear trade and also between the scientific institutions of the two countries
    • Further, In 2015, the UK and Indian Prime Ministers signed a Nuclear Collaboration Agreement between the two countries as part of a comprehensive package of collaboration on energy and climate change, that amounts to a total of 3.2 billion pounds worth of commercial deals between the UK and India, including joint research programmes and initiatives to share technical, scientific, and financial and policy expertise


    • This started with the signing of the Science and Technology Agreement in 1996
      • In 2006, a new orientation was given to S&T Cooperation with setting up of the ‘Science and Innovation Council’ which is the main framework within which India-UK Science & Technology cooperation operates
    • During the 2010 UK-India Summit, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and India came into agreement to support education, by implementing the India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI)
    • UK is among the favoured destinations for Indian students to pursue higher education
      • Around 50000 Indian students are currently studying in UK
    • Also, UK identifies India as a key development partner. Further, the two sides are discussing Global Innovation Programme, which will support Indian sustainable innovations to be scaled up and transferred to select developing countries

 6.Climate and Environment

    • India and UK closely engage on climate related issues through various mechanisms including the Ministerial Energy Dialogue and Joint Working Groups on Climate, Power and Renewables.
    • India-UK Green Growth Equity Fund is mobilising institutional investments in the renewable energy, waste management, electric mobility and environment sub-sectors in India


    • Health sector collaboration is a key element of India-UK Strategic Partnership. The Joint Working Group on Health and Life Sciences regularly meets to prioritise and coordinate bilateral cooperation in the health sector.
    • The successful partnership between Oxford University, AstraZeneca and Serum Institute of India on Covid19 vaccine demonstrated the potential of Indian and UK expertise working together to solve international challenges
    • The two sides are also working on pandemic preparedness, Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR), Zoonotic research, non-communicable diseases, digital health, Ayurveda and alternate medicines, as well as health worker mobility
    • During the visit of Indian PM to UK, they launched the ‘Ayuryoga’ programme in November 2020 and started online modules to raise awareness and practise of Ayurveda and Yoga in UK


    • India and UK signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cultural Cooperation in 2010
    • The Nehru Centre (TNC), established in 1992 in London, is the cultural outreach of the High Commission of India in UK
      • The Centre organises a wide range of cultural functions at its premises
    • Also, Of Britain’s population of 62.3 million, the population of Indian origin is estimated to be around 1.8 – 2 million, accounting for the single largest segment of ethnic population
    • The Queen of England hosted the official launch of the UK India Year of Culture in 2017 at Buckingham Palace with Indian Finance Minister

Irritants/Constraints in India-UK relations: Way forward

    • Trade barriers
      • While leaving the EU may mean that the UK can sign a bilateral trade agreement with India to remove some of these, a comprehensive deal is highly unlikely to be completed in the near future
      • India, which only has nine bilateral trade agreements—and none with a Western country—has made clear that it is not “in a rush” to make a deal with the UK, and that it would demand concessions on movement of people, which have been a sticking point for the UK in EU-India trade negotiations
      • Way forward
        • Both the Government should prioritise trade talks with India and do more to lay the groundwork for an eventual deal
    • India’s business environment
      • The complexity of India’s business environment constrains trade and investment
      • Complicated laws on tax, imports, and foreign direct investment, and variations in the business environment between Indian states hinder doing business
      • Way forward
        • Starting out with improving access to targeted support for UK businesses in India, particularly start-ups and smaller businesses – could be the way out to improve the business environment in India
    • Influence of China
      • Despite these shared interests, the UK and India have sometimes diverged in their positions towards China’s role in the Indian Ocean
      • India is concerned about China’s growing influence in the region, including its investments in ports through the Belt and Road infrastructure initiative (BRI)
      • The UK, by contrast, has engaged substantially with Belt and Road. This risks feeding a perception in India that the UK has prioritised its relationship with China
      • Way forward
        • The UK and India’s convergence of interests in the Indian Ocean region offers an important opportunity to increase engagement on defence and security
        • Hence, both nations should promote standards of transparency and sustainability for infrastructure projects in the region
    • Defence Ties
      • On India’s side, the key hindrances have been its red tape-ridden and perilously slow procurement/acquisition process, low incentives for foreign original equipment manufacturers to invest in India, and uncertain rules and regulations regarding the exportability of systems developed
      • On the other hand, the UK has been slow to adapt to the Indian government’s increasingly preferred method of acquisition—through Government-to-Government (G2G) agreements or Foreign Military Sales (FMS) for deals with the US
      • Way forward
        • With the UK expanding its footprint in the Indo-Pacific and India working toward gaining prominence as the net security provider in the region, both countries’ aspirations and future seem to be intertwined. Hence, the imperative for thorough execution
    • Role of Pakistan
      • The UK’s ties with Pakistan complicate the process of building a closer defence and security relationship with India
      • Way forward
        • The UK’s ability to maintain good relations with both New Delhi and Islamabad, and be perceived as a credible interlocutor, is particularly important following these clashes
    • Colonial Prism
      • Anti-colonial resentment against Britain is always seething barely below the surface among the Indian political and bureaucratic classes
      • Also, the bitter legacies of the Partition and Britain’s perceived tilt to Pakistan have long complicated the engagement between India and the UK

Way forward

    • India needs to recognise the lack of harmony between different strands of the relationship. Long joint statements and unreachable ambition are not the answer. Arriving at common ground on issues troubling India should be the foremost concern
    • This relationship has had many beginnings. Just to stay in the game, we have to concede to geopolitics. Britain (post- Brexit) and India (with the China challenge) need partners. Given India’s difficulties amid the pandemic, Britain has early advantage
    • Hence, the need to bank on the profound ties of culture, history and language to further deepen relations between India and UK