Michael Fallon, the British defense secretary, is in India this week for a four-day-long official visit, where he will meet with his Indian counterpart Arun Jaitley. Jaitley has temporarily assumed charge of the Indian defense ministry portfolio, in addition to his duties as finance minister, following the departure of Manohar Parrikar to serve as the chief minister of Goa following recent state-level elections.
Fallon’s visit will focus on expanding defense commercial cooperation between India and the United Kingdom, with a focus on technology transfer and spurring Indian defense manufacturing in line with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” initiative.
It is additionally the first high-level U.K.-India defense interaction since Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50 of the European Union charter in late March, thereby formally beginning the process of the U.K.’s withdrawal from the supranational body. As the U.K. anticipates “Brexit,” it has been looking to secure favorable trade and other arrangements with non-EU countries.
Philip Hammond, the U.K.’s finance minister, visited India recently, where he also met with Jaitley, but failed to secure a bilateral investment deal. Fallon, by contrast, won’t be looking to extract major concessions from India or secure any defense contracts immediately with the world’s largest arms importer. Instead, Fallon’s approach in India will focus on offering up technological know-how and expertise, according to the Financial Times. (This is despite a fall in the value of defense exports from the U.K. to India from $1.2 billion in 2010 to $42.5 million in 2015.)
In Delhi on Wednesday, Fallon said “It is important that we work together to design and drive those technologies to use the best of India’s brain power with the expertise of our long-established defense companies.” The U.K. may also look to assist the Indian government in overhauling its existing defense procurement processes, which have faced both internal and external criticism for being prone to delays and cost overruns.
In addition to defense commercial matters, Fallon reiterated the U.K.’s commitment to cooperating with India on terrorism. “No country is immune from terrorism. India and the U.K. need to work even harder, and more closely, to combat it,” he said, speaking in the aftermath of a March terror attack in London by a 52-year-old Briton that was later claimed by the Islamic State. “Terrorism is high on our agenda,” Fallon added.