India and Britain have agreed to boost economic as well as defense ties that could eventually help New Delhi move away from its dependance on Russian arms.
Following talks in New Delhi between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart, Boris Johnson, who is on a two-day visit to India, the two sides said they will wrap up a free trade deal by October and announced a security partnership.
“We have agreed a new and expanded defense and security partnership, a decadeslong commitment that will not only forge tighter bonds between us, but support your goal of Make in India,” Johnson said, referring to Modi’s push to expand domestic manufacturing of weaponry.
Despite pressure from its Western allies, like the United States and Britain, India has taken a neutral position on the Ukraine crisis, refusing to condemn Russia or join sanctions imposed by Western countries.
Analysts attribute India’s stance partly to the fact that India sources much of its military equipment from its former Cold War ally.
Britain said it will ensure faster delivery of defense equipment by streamlining licensing rules for exporting military hardware to India. Officials in New Delhi called it a “welcome development.”
Britain is offering next-generation defense and security collaboration across five domains — land, sea, air, space and cyber — to face complex new threats, according to the British Embassy.
“What we are looking for is a combination of U.K.’s technology and our production base to make it a win-win situation,” Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla told reporters.
Indian Prime Minister Modi told reporters that both sides underscored the importance of diplomacy and dialogue to settle the Ukraine crisis.
Indian Foreign Secretary Shringla said that there was no “pressure” on India over the position it has taken.
Modi said he also stressed a “free, open, inclusive and rule-based order in the Indo-Pacific,” in an apparent reference to China’s aggressiveness in the region.
Both leaders sounded an upbeat note on strengthening ties. Using Hindi words, Johnson called Modi a “khaas dost,” or special friend, and said, “Our relations have never been as strong or as good between us as they are now.”
It was “historic” that Johnson’s visit to India came in the 75th year of its independence, Modi said.
Johnson said a free trade pact, when signed, could take trade between the two countries “to a whole new level.” The deal is expected to double their current trade of $50 billion by 2030.
The British prime minister also announced that Britain is to reopen its embassy in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, at a news conference he held after his talks with Indian leaders.
“The extraordinary fortitude and success of (Ukraine) President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy in resisting Russian forces in Kyiv means I can announce that very shortly, next week, we will reopen our embassy in Ukraine’s capital city,” Johnson said.
The main British diplomatic mission had been moved to the western city of Lviv in February.
In response to a question, the British leader said it remained a “realistic possibility” that Russia could win the war in Ukraine.
“Putin has a huge army. He has a very difficult political position because he has made a catastrophic blunder. The only option he now, he now has is to use his appalling, grinding approach led by artillery, trying to grind the Ukrainians down,” Johnson told reporters.
Saying that it was important to keep up “wave after wave” of pressure on Russia, he said Britain was seeing what it could do to reinforce the supply of military equipment, such as tanks to Poland, so that it could send heavier weaponry to Ukraine.