First Indian Defence Minister in 22 years visits UK

January 9, 2024
UK and Indian flag - Indian Defence Minister

Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh arrived in London on 8 January for a three-day visit concentrating on rejuvenating strategic ties between the two countries and to hold discussions covering a range of defence, security and industrial cooperation issues.  

As reported by the Hindustan Times, besides a meeting with Singh’s UK counterpart, Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, he is also expected to meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary David Cameron. 

Sharing critical technology

“During his visit, the Raksha Mantri will hold a bilateral meeting with his UK counterpart Secretary of State for Defence, Mr Grant Shapps,” the Ministry of Defence in New Delhi said in a statement. 

The talks with Shapps are expected to focus on sharing critical technology and expanding bilateral industrial defence cooperation, with collaboration in joint development of fighter aircraft and other military platforms also on the agenda, the news outlet says.

“Shri Rajnath Singh is also expected to call on UK Prime Minister Mr Rishi Sunak and hold a meeting with Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Affairs Mr David Cameron,” the statement added. 

“He will also interact with the CEOs and industry leaders of the UK Defence Industry and meet with the Indian community there.”

Improving relationships

On his visit, the Defence Minister is joined by a high-level delegation made up of officials from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Service Headquarters, Department of Defence and the Department of Defence Production.  

With the last Indian defence ministerial-level visit to the UK over two decades ago, Singh will be greeted with a ceremonial Guard of Honour, visits to Mahatma Gandhi and Dr B.R. Ambedkar memorials, along with a defence industry roundtable and community interactions with the Indian diaspora at Neasdon Temple and Indian House all taking place.  

The last visit by an Indian defence minister to the UK was by George Fernandes in the Atal Behari Vajpayee-led BJP government back in January 2002, the outlet reports.

A previously planned visit by Rajnath Singh to the UK in June 2022 was called off by the Indian side for alleged protocol reasons. 

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