The Indo-Pacific region has steadily become a global priority. The region highlights some of the pressing debates on geopolitics and geoeconomics at the present time. While the United Kingdom (UK) and India recognize this region as an area of great importance to them, there is a need to foster the ongoing India–UK conversation on strategic collaborations. This was highlighted in a read-out of a statement by the British High Commissioner to India, Sir Dominic Asquith, which underscored the vital role of the UK in the Indo-Pacific, and new avenues for cooperation between India and the UK. 

Carnegie India, in partnership with the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London and the British High Commission in New Delhi, hosted a day-long seminar, including closed-door discussions and a public session, on India and the UK in the Indo-Pacific. The seminar, built on the success of a workshop held in November 2017, on India and the UK in a Changing Maritime Environment, witnessed the participation of experts and officials from both nations.

DISCUSSION HIGHLIGHTS 

  • Enhancing the Strategic Partnership: Participants noted that the Indian Ocean—particularly the western Indian Ocean—is a vital maritime theater for the Indian and British navies. They stated that both nations have strategic assets in the region, which can be leveraged to coordinate their efforts in the Indo-Pacific. The participants stressed that, apart from existing regular naval exercises, there is scope for greater cooperation between the two nations in areas such as information sharing. They also stressed the need to establish a maritime security dialogue between India and the UK. 
  • Boosting Connectivity: Participants emphasized that the Indo-Pacific is a crucial hub for cooperation and collaboration on regional initiatives such as connectivity. They noted that, as economic activity in the region continues to grow, there is an increasing need for infrastructure and connectivity projects across the Indo-Pacific. Participants also welcomed new initiatives to boost connectivity, and highlighted the importance of working with partners to mitigate risks. 
  • Importance of the Blue Economy: Participants underlined the blue economy as an emerging avenue for cooperation. They highlighted the economic potential of harnessing the natural resources present in the region that can and should be leveraged to contribute to the sustainable growth of economies of all Indian Ocean nations. The participants provided the example of blue bonds that have been successful in some Indian Ocean littoral nations like Seychelles. Seychelles has been successful in raising considerable financing through its blue bond—an initiative promoting sustainable marine projects. Participants also stated that the vast marine diversity present in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) would greatly benefit from developments in the fields of science and technology.  
  • Building Multilateral Partnerships: Participants expressed the importance of strengthening collaboration among India, the UK, and other Indian Ocean nations in multilateral forums, such as the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) and the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). They added that, given their resources and capacity, India and the UK could work with littoral states, particularly with regard to maritime security that is geared toward capacity-building efforts. This, in turn, will enhance the overall maritime security in the IOR. 
  • Role of Technology: Participants examined the growing role of technology in the maritime sphere. They noted that India and the UK are at the forefront of new technological advancements, with both nations having great potential to collaborate in and utilize areas such as big data for Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA). Participants also emphasized the increasing role of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and robotics in contributing to programs related to blue economy. They stated that these technologies are an integral part of securing the IOR and the larger Indo-Pacific.

A link to British High Commissioner Sir Dominic Asquith’s speech is here.

This event summary was prepared by Rhea Menon, a research assistant at Carnegie India, with inputs from Navya Mehrotra and Upasana Sharma, interns at Carnegie India.

 

Agenda

2:30 p.m.

Welcome Tea and Registration

3:15 p.m.

Opening Remarks

  • Darshana M. Baruah, associate director and senior research analyst at Carnegie India
  • Raffaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at RUSI
3:30 p.m.

Special Address (followed by a Q&A)

  • Dominic Asquith, British high commissioner to India
  • Moderator: Ranjan Mathai, former foreign secretary of India
4:15 p.m.

India and the UK – Toward a Stronger Maritime Partnership in the Indian Ocean Region

  • Paul Hammond, deputy UK maritime component commander
  • Anup Singh, former flag officer commanding-in-chief, Eastern Naval Command, India
  • Darshana M. Baruah, associate director and senior research analyst at Carnegie India
  • Veerle Nouwens, research fellow for international security studies at RUSI
  • Moderator: Walter C. Ladwig III, senior lecturer in international relations at King’s College London
5:30 p.m.

Closing Remarks

  • Darshana M. Baruah, associate director and senior research analyst at Carnegie India
  • Raffaello Pantucci, director of international security studies at RUSI
5:35 p.m.

High Tea