UK looks to become a key stakeholder in Indo-Pacific 

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION
London  Published: Mar 16, 2021, 10:49 PM(IST)

UK military (representative image). Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

The UK is out of the European Union and after Brexit, it is trying to rebuild its relationship with the world. Going by reports, Johnson wants to project that the UK is a force of good. He wants to champion global action and democratic values, which is why it wants more influence in the Indo-Pacific

Boris Johnson is coming to India next month. The British prime minister was supposed to visit in January, but the pandemic worsened in the UK and the visit had to be called off. It's back on his schedule now. Johnson will visit New Delhi on the April 26. He also plans to travel to Pune. 

This will be his first major international trip after Brexit. It will also mark a new beginning as London is reshaping its relationship with the world.   

Recently, the British government conducted a major review of its security, defence, development and foreign policy. It's a 100-page document. It basically spells out Boris Johnson's vision for the UK. 

It says Johnson wants a major foreign policy shift, a 'tilt to the Indo-Pacific' and the road to that, goes through India. The British government says the purpose of Johnson's trip is to 'unlock opportunities in the region'.   

It is planning multiple engagements. First, Johnson is coming to India. Then, he has invited India for the G7 summit. India is not part of the G7, or the group of seven, but the summit will be held in the UK and as the host country, Britain has extended an invite to India.   

So, the UK is out of the European Union and after Brexit, it is trying to rebuild its relationship with the world. Going by reports, Johnson wants to project that the UK is a force of good. He wants to champion global action and democratic values, which is why it wants more influence in the Indo-Pacific. Johnson's review calls the Indo-Pacific 'increasingly the geopolitical centre of the world'. It's a good assessment. It also explains why the UK is moving a warship to the region.  

Earlier this year, London announced plans to deploy a new carrier strike group led by HMS Queen Elizabeth. This is a 65,000-tonne and 280-metre-long Royal Navy fleet flagship. Reports say it has a flight deck that can carry up to 40 aircraft.

Now, why does the UK need a warship in the Indo-Pacific? 

As the UK has left the European Union, it needs new trading partners. It has applied to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. This is a trade agreement between 11 countries including Australia and Japan. Britain wants to join the group. These countries face one common challenge, China's aggression in the Indo-Pacific. 

Now, here's the thing any trade relationship requires free and open trading routes. Countries in the Indo-Pacific see China, a threat and if the UK wants to join them, it will have to prepare for the China threat, which is why it is sending a warship to these waters. 

It is now in the UK's interests to ensure that the Indo-Pacific remains free and open. According to a report, the United Kingdom has moved to strengthen security cooperation with several Indo-Pacific countries. It is working on stronger defence ties with Japan and members of the FPDA that is the five power defence arrangements. This list also includes Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Singapore. The FPDA is a series of defence relationships. They were established through a series of multilateral agreements between these countries. In simpler words, the UK is coming closer to the major players in this region. The UK also maintains military outposts in Brunei as well as a naval support facility in Singapore. So, the signs are clear. 

Boris Johnson wants a bigger role for the UK in the world and he is betting Britain's future on the Indo-Pacific. In December last year, the UK's foreign secretary Dominic Raab said, “If you look at India and the Indo-Pacific region and take a long-term view, that is where the growth opportunities will be". So, London plans to woo New Delhi to become a key stakeholder in the Indo-Pacific. 

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