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A first in 22 years, why Rajnath Singh’s UK visit is significant | India News – Times of India

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is leaving today on a two-day visit to the UK to boost the bilateral strategic and security ties.
Originally planned for June 2022, the visit is the first by an Indian defence minister in 22 years.
It is linked to talks Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his then-UK counterpart Boris Johnson held in April 2022, when they agreed on a new and expanded India-UK defence partnership.
Agenda
Singh is set to engage in wide-ranging talks with UK Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, inspect a ceremonial Guard of Honour, and visit Mahatma Gandhi and Dr BR Ambedkar memorials in London.
Accompanied by a high-level delegation, Singh is expected to call on the UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Minister David Cameron, engaging with senior officials, DRDO representatives, and industry leaders.
Significance
This visit signifies a positive shift in India’s political relationship and trust-building with the UK, especially following Sunak’s visit to India for the G20 Summit in September 2023.
This visit is happening against the backdrop of India’s concerns over instances of pro-Khalistan violence in the UK and some contentious legacy issues on UK defence supplies to India.
Military cooperation
The visit aims to deepen military cooperation and forge stronger defence industrial partnerships with the UK, leveraging previous high-level meetings such as the November 2023 Defence Consultative Group session in Delhi, despite the UK not being among India’s top five strategic partners.
Ongoing projects with Rolls-Royce, GE (Naval) UK, and MBDA (UK) will be explored during the visit, aligning with India’s Make in India and Atmanirbhar Bharat programmes in the defence sector.
Strategic partnership
Highlighted during Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s April 2022 visit, the India-UK defence partnership includes the creation of an Open General Export Licence (OGEL) to streamline defence procurement, reducing bureaucracy and accelerating delivery times.
Amid preparations for parliamentary elections in both countries, negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) are underway, projecting to elevate the current GBP 36-billion bilateral partnership.



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