India and the UK on Friday agreed to strengthen cooperation in the Indo-Pacific as their foreign ministers held extensive talks on key bilateral and regional issues and stressed the need for safe and unhindered access for humanitarian aid to Afghanistan and ensuring that it is not used to threaten or attack any country or to shelter or train terrorists.
During the talks between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss, the two sides also agreed on instituting the India-UK Strategic Futures Forum Track, a new 1.5 Dialogue mechanism to foster expert deliberations on long-term strategic links between them.
Asserting that India and the UK can do so much more in areas like sharing our expertise on the environment ahead of the COP26 summit, Truss said, “we are delighted the Prime Minister will be there.”
The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, is scheduled to be held in the city of Glasgow, Scotland, between October 31 and November 12, 2021.
Jaishankar and Truss, who is on an official two-day visit to India, also undertook a detailed review of the Roadmap 2030 launched during the India-UK Virtual Summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his British counterpart Boris Johnson in May earlier this year.
India and the UK, after the virtual summit, had unveiled an ambitious 10-year roadmap to boost cooperation in key areas, including defence, security and healthcare.
“Glad to welcome UK Foreign Secretary @trussliz to Delhi. Just completed a comprehensive review of our relationship,” Jaishankar tweeted after the talks.
The two leaders appreciated the progress made so far on the implementation of the Roadmap 2030 despite the constraints posed by the pandemic with Jaishankar noting that the roadmap was progressing well and the pillars on trade and prosperity, people to people relationship, defence and security, climate and health are all moving forward.
After the talks, Truss tweeted, “India is our great friend, an economic powerhouse and the world’s largest democracy. Our relationship will be vital over the coming decades. Good meeting @DrSJaishankar to discuss closer collaboration on technology; investment and trade; security and defence.”
In a statement on the talks, the Ministry of External Affairs said both ministers welcomed the progress in delivering the Enhanced Trade Partnership announced at the virtual summit between the two prime ministers.
They also underlined the need for launching FTA negotiations at the earliest, with a focus on negotiating an interim agreement that can deliver quick gains to businesses in both India and the UK, the MEA said.
During their talks, both sides also discussed a number of regional and international issues of mutual interest while sharing their commitment to a multi-polar world and multilateralism.
They agreed to strengthen cooperation in West Asia and the Indo-Pacific, on countering terrorism and radical extremism, and addressing emerging challenges in the cyber and space domains, the MEA said.
While India is a member of QUAD along with the US, Japan and Australia, the UK is part of the AUKUS with Australia and the US. Both the groupings are aimed at strengthening cooperation between these countries in the Indo-Pacific region.
“On Afghanistan, the need for full, safe and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance was discussed, as also the need for Afghan territory not to be used to threaten or attack any country or to shelter or train terrorists, or to plan or to finance terrorist attacks,” it said.
Earlier in the day, Jaishankar also held a meeting with UK Chief of the Defence Staff General Nicholas Carter during which they discussed the Afghanistan situation and issues related to the Indo-Pacific.
The discussions come amid increased global concerns over the possibility of the spread of terrorism from Afghanistan.
Jaishankar and Truss discussed the Migration and Mobility Partnership and the Global Innovation Partnership and committed to their early implementation.
During their talks, Jaishankar and Truss also acknowledged the establishment of new dialogue mechanisms for discussing consular issues and maritime security.
There were detailed discussions focused on enhancing cooperation in the key priority areas of trade and investments, people-to-people relationship, health partnership, climate change, science and innovation and defence and security, the statement said.
There is a key opportunity to deepen the bilateral relationship in a number of areas, whether its security and defence, technology and health, the British foreign secretary said and congratulated India on crossing the 100-crore COVID vaccine doses milestone.
During the day, Truss also met the Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister Bhupender Yadav.
On Saturday, she will be visiting Mumbai where she will participate in business and defence engagements held in connection with the visit of Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21) to India.
She would also pay her respects at the memorial to honour the victims of the terrorist attack in Mumbai on 26 November 2008.