London: The UK government on Wednesday unveiled plans to deploy Royal Navy warships to the Indian Ocean region later this year to operate and train with Indian forces, signalling what it described as the growing importance of the strategic relationship between the two countries.
Defence Secretary Grant Shapps, who co-chaired an India-UK Defence Industry CEOs Roundtable with visiting Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday following their bilateral talks earlier, said the Littoral Response Group (LRG) will be deployed this year and the Carrier Strike Group (CRG) in 2025 for joint India-UK training.
The deployment of the UK’s “most advanced naval capabilities” has been flagged by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) as a “decisive step” in bolstering UK-India security ties.
“There is absolutely no question that the world is becoming increasingly contested, so it’s vital that we continue to build on our strategic relationships with key partners like India,” said Shapps.
“Together, we share the same security challenges and are steadfast in our commitment to maintaining a free and prosperous Indo-Pacific. It is clear that this relationship is going from strength to strength, but we must continue to work hand-in-hand to uphold global security in light of threats and challenges that seek to destabilise and damage us,” he said.
The LRG is a Royal Navy task group consisting of at least two amphibious warfare ships, and the CRG is the aircraft carrier battle group of the Royal Navy. The CRG’s inaugural deployment was back in 2021 in the Indo-Pacific, where it conducted joint exercises with the Indian forces.
“Had a wonderful interaction with the industry leaders and CEOs at the UK-India Defence CEO Roundtable in London,” Defence Minister Singh posted on social media platform X after the conference.
“India envisions an enriching partnership with the UK to cooperate, co-create and co-innovate. By synergising the strengths of both the countries, we can do great things together,” he said.
The MoD said the latest deployment reflects a stepped-up partnership during the Indian Defence Minister’s first visit to the UK this week.
“In the coming years, the UK and India will also embark on more complex exercises between their respective militaries, building up to a landmark joint exercise to be conducted before the end of 2030, supporting shared goals of protecting critical trade routes and upholding the international rules-based system,” the MoD said.
The talks between the two senior ministers discussed future cooperation in defence, from joint exercises to knowledge sharing and instructor exchanges, which build on the comprehensive strategic partnership envisaged in the 2030 India-UK Roadmap.
At the CEOs Roundtable, collaboration with industry was in focus, with the two countries working together on electric propulsion systems that will power future fleets and cooperating on the development of complex weapons.
Building on the existing strategic partnership, some new joint initiatives highlighted by the MoD during Singh’s UK visit include Launching Defence Partnership-India, a bespoke office designed to further defence collaboration between the two countries; a commitment to several instructor exchanges between UK Officer Training Colleges and specialist schools, alongside a Youth Exchange MOU to solidify the already strong relationship between our cadet organisations.
Other initiatives include, a Letter of Arrangement that will enable further emphasis to be placed on research and development between our two nations, focused on next-generation capabilities; and “solidifying” an agreement on logistics exchange, allowing for the provision of logistic support, supplies and services between the UK and Indian Armed Forces, for joint training, joint exercises, authorised port visits and Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations.
Singh arrived in London on Monday and has held a series of engagements besides bilateral talks with his UK counterpart. He will engage with the Indian community at a diaspora reception to conclude his official visit on Wednesday evening.