Crafting a new phase in India-U.K. defence ties – Strengthening India-U.K. Defense Cooperation | 19 January 2024 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about India-UK relations in the backdrop of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's recent visit to the United Kingdom (UK).


  • GS2: Bilateral, Regional and Global Groupings and Agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests


  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's recent visit to the United Kingdom (U.K.) marks a significant revitalization of the India-UK defense relationship after a two-decade hiatus.
  • The impetus for this rapprochement lies in the evolving geopolitical landscape, particularly the rise of Chinese military power in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and its threat to vital Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs). This shared strategic concern presents an opportunity for both nations to reorient their priorities and forge closer defense ties.


  • Key Areas of Cooperation: India's Perspectives: 
    • A key area of focus for India is addressing the capability gaps in its Navy vis-à-vis the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Securing access to advanced technologies like electric propulsion from the U.K. plays a pivotal role in bridging this gap.
    • Thus, one key area of cooperation is in electrical propulsion to power aircraft carriers. The Indian Navy's carriers are not currently powered by electric propulsion technology, while the Royal Navy (RN) has mastered this technology.
    • Electric propulsion offers significant advantages, including reduced acoustic signatures for enhanced stealth and improved electrical power generation for onboard systems.
  • Deepening Cooperation on Electric Propulsion Technology:
    • The India-UK Electric Propulsion Capability Partnership, established in February 2023, signifies a concerted effort to collaborate on this critical technology.
    • Extensive discussions have taken place on knowledge transfer and integration of electric propulsion into future Indian warships, with initial testing planned for landing platforms docks and next-generation destroyers.
    • The U.K.'s commitment to training, equipping, and supporting India in developing its own electric propulsion infrastructure further underscores the depth of this collaboration.

India-UK Electric Propulsion Capability Partnership:

  • The India-UK Electric Propulsion Capability Partnership (EPCP) is a joint initiative between the two countries to develop and integrate electric propulsion technology into future naval vessels. 
  • Established: 2023, following the India-UK Maritime Expo in Gujarat.
  • Aim: Assist India in developing its own maritime electric-propulsion technology for warships.
  • Focus: Collaboration on design, development, testing, and integration of electric propulsion systems.
  • Benefits:
    • Improved energy efficiency and reduced emissions for Indian Navy vessels.
    • Enhanced stealth and operational capabilities.
    • Increased technological self-reliance for India.
  • Recent Developments: Second Joint Working Group meeting held in November 2023:
    • Discussions on technical requirements, maintenance, crew training, and system integration.
    • Rolls-Royce playing an increasingly prominent role as a key industry representative from the UK side.
    • Potential application of electric propulsion technology in future Indian aircraft carriers and other warships.
  • Challenges and Opportunities:
    • While the potential for closer India-UK defense ties is immense, certain legacy issues remain. U.K.'s historical balancing act between India and Pakistan and ongoing concerns surrounding Khalistan and Sikh separatism could present potential roadblocks.
    • However, the imperative of addressing China's growing maritime presence in the IOR and its implications for regional stability outweigh these challenges.

Way Forward:

  • The renewed India-UK defense partnership, marked by increased military exercises, deeper industrial cooperation, and the planned deployment of U.K. naval forces in the IOR, reflects a strategic convergence in the face of a rapidly evolving Indo-Pacific landscape.
  • This partnership holds significant promise for addressing the shared security challenges posed by China's rise and ensuring regional stability.

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