COVID-19 Brings UK India Into a Closer Friendship as a Message to Neighbours
One of the sole positives from India's devastating COVID-19 crisis is how it has set the scene for closer UK-India relations. As the Republic reels from a staggering 400,000 cases a day, the UK has promised to help in whatever way it can.
The UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has the pledge to "stand side by side" with the stricken South Asian country. Indeed, Hancock cited the strong bonds between the countries, highlighting ties of both family and friendship.
In late April, the UK sent an aid package of oxygen and ventilators.
This was followed up at the start of May with 1,000 ventilators and three 18-tonne oxygen generators that can provide oxygen for up to 50 people at a time. More aid is to follow.
UK-India Trade Agreement
All of this help comes hot on the heels of a move to deepen trade and security between the UK and India. Prime Ministers Boris Johnson and Narendra Modi agreed on the terms of a new Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP) by virtual meeting this May.
This deal will create 6,500 jobs in the UK with an Indian investment of over £500m. However, this deal is about more than trade cooperation.
Migration and Skills Sharing
The long-standing historical bonds between UK and India have resulted in a great deal of migration between citizens. However, a new agreement between the countries will allow 2-year work visas for students and young professionals. With India producing a vast number of top-level graduates in STEM subjects, this deal will benefit both countries.
A Global Security Strategy
Of course, more observant readers will note that enhanced UK-India relations represent a change in strategy in the Asian region for the UK. Under David Cameron's government, Britain sought to attract Chinese investment. However, this relationship soured somewhat due to China's threat in the South China Sea, questions over human rights abuses,and tensions over Hong Kong.
Post-Brexit, the UK needs to ensure stability in the region, which means enhanced ties to Japan, Australia, and India. With links to the EU becoming strained, new trading partners and friends are required to ensure the health of the economy. These concerns, in part, are responsible for the recent Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy.
Due to a shared history, the UK and India have always had close bonds. However, with the Republic in its darkest hour, the UK has come to its assistance. India's moment of need has coincided with plans by the two countries to increase trade, security and migration.
Taken together, these events will deepen the cooperation and friendship between the global powers, resulting in a more robust relationship in the future. With China an ever-growing concern in the region, close relations between the UK and India are needed more than ever.
Alpesh Patel OBE President, The India League
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