British PM Sunak’s ex-deputy Raab calls for UK to up its game on India ties

London: One of British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s close allies and former deputy prime minister, Dominic Raab, on Saturday called on the British Indian leader to up the government’s game to reap the full dividends of a closer partnership with India.

Dominic Raab, who led Sunak’s leadership campaign and served as his Foreign Secretary before being forced to resign amid bullying allegations, wrote in ‘The Daily Telegraph’ that more can be achieved within the bilateral relationship with the UK’s first Prime Minister of Indian heritage now in charge at Downing Street.

He pointed to India’s “particular comparative advantage in tech” against the backdrop of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s high-profile visit to the US this week during which mega deals were struck.

With the UK’s historic ties to India, and our first UK Prime Minister of Indian heritage, are we doing enough to maximise the rewards from this critical relationship, questions Raab.

With Rishi Sunak as Prime Minister, Britain remains uniquely placed to reap the dividends of a deeper friendship with India. To do so, we’ll need to up our game across the whole of government, writes the Conservative Party MP.

He notes that India as the world’s fifth largest economy predicted to overtake the Eurozone within 30 years, offers enormous trade opportunities as investor sentiment warms with investment in roads, and a large well-educated local talent pool to draw from.

When it comes to defence procurement, India is the world’s largest importer of military hardware. Again, Modi is in the market for joint ventures that allow tech transfer to help build up homegrown production. For the West, it is an opportunity to wean India off imports of Russian weapons, he writes.

India’s economic rise and geopolitical salience make it a linchpin partner, particularly as a counterweight to China, he writes.

Acknowledging India’s own geopolitical compulsions, Raab admits India’s refusal to condemn Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in the same terms as the West as maddening.

But as a leading member of the non-aligned group, India has far-reaching influence amongst developing countries. That could be useful to the West in areas of common interest, like China the case for cooperating more closely with India just gets stronger, he writes.

Reflecting his own frustrations with the civil service apparatus, which is referred to as the Whitehall blob in ministerial circles, Raab laments that an “ossified Whitehall bureaucracy has given France the edge over British aerospace firms in supplying India the new fighter jets it needs an order of French Rafales is now expected.

FTA (free trade agreement) negotiations were launched, cooperation intensified during COVID on the supply of vital goods from Personal Protective Equipment to paracetamol, with pledges to collaborate on tech and critical minerals, and a commitment to pursue mutual defence procurement. But this relationship requires constant focus to deliver results, added Raab.