Admiral Sir Tony Radakin KCB ADC – First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff,
Royal Navy, United Kingdom.
The year 2021 has been described as the Royal Navy’s year of delivery. This is an extraordinarily rich time, as we develop our international relationships outside of the European Union, build on the recent Integrated Review and benefit from a Government which has provided an in-year uplift to the Defence budget and the certainty of a four-year financial settlement. For the United Kingdom and the Royal Navy, these enhanced international relationships are key: the opportunity for the Government and our diplomats to carve out new trade agreements, for the armed forces to operate and exercise with allies and partners around the globe, and for the country to tilt to the Indo-Pacific.
The UK Government’s Integrated Review has provided the most comprehensive review of Defence, Security, Foreign Policy and Development since the end of the Cold War. Rather than look at each aspect of security and prosperity in isolation, the Review considered all facets together and provided what has been described as a reset for the United Kingdom’s grand strategy. It described a world, which is more uncertain and insecure, where the risk of conflict is increasing, but also a world where the opportunities for international cooperation and concord are there to be taken.
The review highlighted our position at the heart of the international rules-based international system. As one of five permanent members (P5) of the UN Security Council, and with a leading voice in organisations like the G7, G20 and Commonwealth, we have a global perspective and global responsibilities. We are a European nation with global interests, partnerships and capabilities.
One of the headline decisions in the Review was the tilt to the Indo-Pacific region, rightly highlighted as a part of the world that is set to be the engine room of the global economic recovery. It is home to some of the world’s most vibrant, tech-savvy nations, which are eager to trade. It is home to some of our closest allies and partners, with nations that share the United Kingdom’s beliefs and values in freedom, democracy and free trade. In addition, of course, India, the world’s largest democracy, is one of our closest and most historic allies.
The links between our two great nations are getting ever closer in terms of security, prosperity and defence. In May of this year, Prime Ministers Modi and Johnson unveiled the 2030 Roadmap for India-UK future relations. This committed our two nations to a partnership, which delivers for both countries, enhancing defence and security cooperation, working towards a safer and more secure Indian Ocean region and Indo-Pacific. In June Prime Minister Modi was one of only four world leaders invited to attend the historic meeting of G7 leaders in Cornwall. In July the Royal Navy’s Carrier Strike Group, centred on the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth conducted a two-day exercise with the surface ships, aircraft and submarines of the Indian Navy in the Bay of Bengal. And last month, the frigates INS Tabar and HMS Westminster conducted Exercise KONKAN-21 in the English Channel.
The close links between our two great nations do not only take place at the political level. I enjoy an excellent relationship with my fellow Chief, Admiral Karambir Singh, and we recently held a virtual call where we discussed future opportunities for cooperation and collaboration. In June of this year, I was delighted to mark the extremely strong relationship between the Indian Navy and the Royal Navy with the assignment of the first United Kingdom Liaison Officer to India’s Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Centre at Gurugram.
Moving into the future, we are likely to see further exercising and operating between our two navies when the Royal Navy’s two newest, greenest ships HMS Tamar and HMS Spey arrive to begin their permanent assignments in the Indo-Pacific. These highly capable Batch 2 Offshore Patrol Vessels will provide an enduring presence in the region, operating with allies and partners. In time, the Royal Navy’s new Littoral Response Group (LRG) will also operate in the Indian Ocean from 2023 as announced in this year’s Defence Command Plan. The LRG will be able to deliver training to our allies and partners in the region, including our close allies from the Indian Navy.
This all points to ever-closer relations between India and the United Kingdom, building on our shared interests and values. If the pandemic and the threat of climate change have shown us anything, it is that big issues need the support of many nations to find a solution. Only by working closely with those who share our outlook can we successfully tackle the challenges of the coming years.