During a two-day visit to UK, defence minister Rajnath Singh signed two agreements with his counterpart Grant Shapps in a bilateral meeting in London on 9 January 2024. The first was a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) delineating the framework for a bilateral international cadet exchange programme, fostering people-to-people exchanges, especially among the youth. The second agreement was a Letter of Arrangement solidifying collaboration between Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the UK’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) in defence research and development. These agreements are expected to catalyse defence research collaboration and bolster the bonds between the two nations.
Before the meeting, Rajnath Singh paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi at Tavistock Square, commemorating his return from South Africa to Mumbai. During the meeting, Shapps emphasised the enduring and non-transactional nature of the relationship between the UK and India, emphasizing shared goals and commonalities. Singh acknowledged the growing strategic alignment, notably in the Indo-Pacific region, expressing appreciation for the evolving ties.
On January 10, Singh co-chaired the UK-India Defence Industry CEOs Roundtable with Shapps. Held at Trinity House, this event convened top UK defence industry leaders and CEOs. The roundtable discussions revolved around fortifying India-UK defence industrial relationship, and included discussions on aero-engines, electric propulsion, missiles, power packs, and maritime systems.
During the meeting, Singh welcomed investment and technology collaboration from the UK, underscoring India’s skilled human resource base, pro-FDI, and pro-business ecosystem. He outlined India’s ambitious goal to become a developed economy by 2047. According to him, the emphasis was on a collaborative approach, encapsulated in the vision to ‘co-operate, co-create, and co-innovate.’
The same day, Singh called on UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street. In his meeting, Singh stressed the need for like-minded countries, including the UK, to collaborate with India in strengthening a peaceful and stable global rules-based order. Prime Minister Sunak concurred with the defence minister emphasising the importance of collaboration in trade, defence, and technology. The ongoing Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiations were discussed, with hopes for a successful conclusion. The UK Prime Minister expressed interest in bolstering the defence and security pillar of the bilateral relationship, endorsing stronger business and technology partnerships. Singh presented a statue of Ram Darbar to the UK Prime Minister.
Singh also held discussions with foreign secretary Lord David Cameron, which further reinforced the momentum and direction of the India-UK partnership. The two spoke of integration of defence industries through supply chain collaboration and the identification of joint projects. Cameron reiterated UK government’s commitment to collaborating with India in defence industrial collaboration, aligning with the vision of a rule-based international order.
Singh concluded the visit by interacting with the Indian community at India House, London, where over 160 prominent persons of Indian origin had gathered. The defence minister expressed gratitude for their contributions and underlined the shared commitment to a stronger India-UK relationship.