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Defence minister Rajnath Singh calls off UK visit

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Defence minister Rajnath Singh called off his three-day official tour of United Kingdom, which was to begin from Sunday, over apprehensions that the planned engagements with some top functionaries in the Boris Johnson government may not meet India’s expectations, defence ministry sources said.

The Minister was to take along an industry delegation to the UK to explore areas of defence cooperation, and meet his counterpart Ben Wallace, among other matters, for defence bilateral talks and also ink a couple of “understandings” and “agreements”. But the visit fell through despite last minute parleys between the UK foreign office with ministry of external affairs (MEA) and Indian High Commission in London, said defence ministry sources. “Engagement schedules” with key personalities did not match up to India’s “expectation”, ministry sources revealed.

Singh, however, tweeted on July 2 that he would be in Hyderabad for two days to inaugurate new facilities at Bharat Dynamics , Bhanur, and also attend the BJP National Executive at Hyderabad.

Collaborations in the offing

In anticipation of the Defence Minister’s proposed tour, UK’s Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin had told a newspaper on June 30 that – “The Royal Navy and British industry now stand ready to co-produce an indigenous electric propulsion capability in support of the Indian Navy. UK is also working with India on strategic collaboration for modernfighter aircraft and jet engine advanced core technology, and co-production oflaserbeam riding MANPAD (man portable air defence) systems”.

Government sources do not rule out a possibility of resheduling the defence minister’s trip given that the UK is showing interest in nurturing industrial partnership for strategic collaboration to assist Indian Navy and Air Force strengthen their capabilities.

Potential engagements

Talks are also on for National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to fly out to London but it’s in initial stages and dates have not been decided so far, government sources added, to illustrate possibility of a series of engagements that are likely to happen this year to cement bilateral relations.

A British High Commission spokesperson said, “We do not comment on private discussions held with the Government of India”. The MEA left it to the MoD to respond as to why the Minister didn’t go to the UK. The MoD was officially not forthcoming on the issue.

UK premier Johnson’ visit to India for two days from April 21 gave fresh impetus to the bilateral relations. Johnson had then announced the roadmap for future military cooperation by saying his country was reading Open General Export Licence (OGEL) for India to “reduce bureaucracy and slashing delivery times” for defence procurement. He had also offered assistance to India in the indigenous production of fighter jets.

Published on

July 04, 2022



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