NEW DELHI: Britain and India agreed to a “new and expanded” defense and security partnership on Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced during a visit to New Delhi.
Johnson traveled to India as he faces criticism at home and the embarrassing prospect of an investigation into whether he lied to parliament about the lockdown-breaking “Partygate” scandal.
New Delhi is part of the Quad group with the United States, Japan and Australia, which is seen as a bulwark against an increasingly assertive China.
But India also has a long history of Cold War cooperation with Moscow, which remains its biggest military supplier, and has refused to condemn Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.
“The threats of autocratic coercion have grown even higher,” Johnson said alongside his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, in an apparent reference to Beijing.
“And so it is vital that we deepen our cooperation, including our shared interest in keeping the Indo-Pacific open and free.”
The new partnership was “a decades-long commitment”, he added, praising the relationship between “one of the oldest democracies and India, certainly the largest democracy”.
But relations between Britain and India have long been tainted by the legacy of colonial rule, when London saw the world’s second most populous nation as the crown jewel of its empire, but hundreds of millions of Indians bristled. under his authority.
Modi’s Hindu nationalist government regularly emphasizes the struggle for independence as a vital component of India’s national identity.
He has built giant statues of key independence leaders and created a museum for one of them at the Red Fort, a World Heritage Site in Delhi.
It was “historic” that Johnson’s visit to India came in the 75th year of its independence, Modi said.
“We discussed various regional and international developments and emphasized a free, open, inclusive and rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific,” he added.
Exact details of the security association were not immediately available.
But Johnson said the two have agreed to work together on defense acquisitions “to meet threats on land, sea and air, space and cyber, including partnering on new fighter jet technology, maritime technologies to detect and respond to threats in the oceans “.
New Delhi has long sought to bolster its domestic military manufacturing capacity, partly to reduce its reliance on Moscow and partly as a contribution to its “Make in India” campaign.
The two countries are also in talks over a post-Brexit trade deal, but the Modi government is keen to secure more visas for Indians to work or study in the UK.