Thursday, June 13, 2024

Roadmap For A Naval Collaboration Between India & The UK

By Kamal Shah 

On the sidelines of the prestigious Raisina Dialogue 2023, Indian Aerospace & Defence’s Editorial Director, Kamal Shah, had the opportunity to be among a select few to interact with the Chief of the Naval Staff, United Kingdom and First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Ben Key. The discussion addressed various issues, from the importance of naval collaboration between the two nations to the challenges posed by China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean.

As the geopolitical landscape in the Indo-Pacific region continues to evolve, countries are looking to forge alliances to ensure regional stability and prosperity. One such collaborative approach that has been keenly observed by policy watchers and the global media is the collaboration between India and the United Kingdom.

Adm. Key lauded India’s leadership regionally and globally and underscored the importance of collaboration between the two countries to ensure peace and prosperity at sea. He highlighted the Carrier Strike Group deployment in 2021, a significant undertaking by the UK’s Royal Navy in the region, and the time the UK and Indian navies spent operating together. The Admiral expressed his admiration for India’s maritime history and his eagerness to continue working with India to ensure peace and prosperity at sea.

The conversation turned to the roadmap for closer defence ties between the UK and India, with Adm. Key speaking highly of the UK-India Roadmap with its ambitious targets for 2030. He highlighted the importance of sharing ideas around technology, such as Electric Propulsion systems, where both countries can learn from each other’s experiences and avoid making the same mistakes. He also discussed the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative, established by Prime Minister Modi, as another area of shared interest between the UK and India and accentuated the importance of developing a committed, mutually beneficial relationship where both countries trust and exchange ideas and technology.

IADB Editorial Director, Kamal Shah with British Navy Chief, Adm. Sir Ben Key

However, the discussion also touched upon the challenges of China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean. Adm. Key acknowledged that China is a major and influential country with whom it is essential to maintain open and honest relations. He underlined the importance of operating within the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, stating that there should be no reason why all countries cannot operate closely with each other as long as they comply with the rules.

The conversation also delved into the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine, with Adm. Key strongly condemning Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. He stressed the fundamental principle enshrined within the UN Charter that nations have the right to live in peace and that sovereign borders should be respected.

A critical aspect of the conversation revolved around the hotly debated topic of submarine versus aircraft carriers for the Indian Navy. The British Navy Chief shared his take on the matter with examples from modern conflicts and the trajectory of armed conflict. 

He highlighted that discussing India’s force mix is not his place but offered some insights on the importance of aircraft carriers and submarines. Adm. Key was of the opinion that in recent conflicts, such as those in Ukraine, it has become clear that despite the talk of drone and robot warfare, human involvement and traditional capabilities remain significant factors. Therefore, the future of warfare does not entail abandoning past capabilities but rather balancing and pursuing a full range of capabilities. It is still being determined which capabilities will offer the best means of delivering the required effects at any given time.

Contrary to the notion of purely autonomous warfare fought at range, existing capabilities still need to be used. For instance, submarines are effective at remaining undetected at sea, while aircraft carriers can play a vital role in shaping battlespaces and demonstrating deterrence. ‘I believe that India, as a leading navy in the region, will seek a mix of capabilities that enables it to achieve the government’s objectives and contribute to peace in the region.’

This interaction between Indian Aerospace & Defence’s Editorial Director and the CNS, UK and First Sea Lord highlighted the importance of building strong and meaningful ties that reflect a shared commitment to cooperation and capability. As countries continue to navigate the complex geopolitical landscape in the Indo-Pacific region, alliances like the one between India and the UK will be critical to ensuring peace, stability, and prosperity.

Most Popular