By Zhang Shaolin
The UK and India recently reached a major agreement to upgrade their bilateral relationship to a "comprehensive strategic partnership," according to Indian media reports. The two sides will deepen defense and security cooperation and proposed joint research and development of next-generation fighter jets for the first time. This has attracted widespread attention.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a 10-year road map when they reached cooperation between the two countries. The two countries will further deepen their defense and security cooperation under the framework of the UK-India defense and international security partnership, especially in key military technologies such as next-generation fighter jets, ship propulsion systems, and complex weapons and equipment. The UK clearly stated its support for India’s Tejas LCA Mk2 fighter jet project. This is the first time that high-level leaders from the two countries have agreed on the joint development of a new fighter jet.
However, the UK and India have their own plans for deepening defense and security cooperation. For India, the signing of the agreement this time is more out of consideration for enhancing its own military strength and expanding its regional influence. On the one hand, the Asia-Pacific region is becoming the focus of global geopolitics and geoeconomics. India is trying to form a regional deterrence by enhancing its military strength. On the other hand, India's defense industry is backward, and its military equipment demand is overly dependent on procurement. Five of the eight major purchases listed by the Indian Ministry of Defense in 2021 depend on imports. For example, India's Tejas LCA Mk1 fighter jets use American or British aero engines. India chose to work with the UK because it hopes to use the technical strength of the UK to accelerate the process of localization of weapons and equipment.
As an extraterritorial country, the UK's eagerness to deploy in the Asia-Pacific region has other intentions. On the one hand, the UK sees India as a powerful force that can be relied upon to enter the Asia-Pacific region. This cooperation is based on the premise of leading the path of India's military development and borrowing India's hands to intervene in Indo-Pacific affairs deeply. It aims to pave the way for creating an "Indo-Pacific Order" under the leadership of the UK and the realization of the goal of "Global Britain". On the other hand, after the Brexit, EU countries represented by France and Germany are no longer willing to carry out in-depth cooperation with the UK. At the same time, the US wants independent research and development. Therefore, the UK urgently needs allies. From the perspective of the UK, choosing to work with India means that the UK takes the lead in the development of next-generation fighter jets while obtains financial support from India.
It can be said that the defense cooperation between the UK and India, based on their respective national interests, cannot go beyond the scope of "strategic mutual utilization" and is far from a real security alliance.