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India: Economic and Security Relationship

Volume 712: debated on Tuesday 26 April 2022

5. What recent steps she has taken to strengthen the UK’s economic and security relationship with India. (906606)

15. What recent diplomatic steps she has taken to strengthen the UK’s economic and security relationship with India. (906618)

India is the world’s largest democracy and a key partner of the United Kingdom. We are deepening our defence and security ties, as well as securing a trade deal by the end of the year.

I thank my right hon. Friend for her answer, and for the tremendous work she has been doing since she became Foreign Secretary to deepen the relationship with India. Indeed, the Prime Minister’s visit last week built on that relationship. Clearly there is a need for defence, trade and other opportunities, but there is also a requirement to move India away from its relationship with Russia. What will my right hon. Friend do to ensure that our friendship continues with India, and that it is moved back towards the west?

My hon. Friend is a huge champion for the Indian community in Harrow East, and he is right: India is a democracy. We want to work more closely with India and other democracies to reduce dependence on authoritarian regimes such as Russia. We can do that by working more closely with India on defence, which is what the Prime Minister was doing on his visit to India last week, and more closely on trade and investment, so that democracies are working with each other and we are less dependent on regimes such as Russia that have ill intent.

Following on from that, will my right hon. Friend join me in welcoming the progress made by the Prime Minister last week to boost security in the Indo-Pacific? Will she confirm that following his trip, the UK will continue to work closely with our friends in India to deliver a more secure and prosperous future for both our peoples in the UK and in India?

That is right. First, we are working more closely with India on defence, to benefit industries in both our countries and make our countries more secure and less dependent on authoritarian regimes. At the same time, we will be delivering more commercial benefits. When the Prime Minister was in India he confirmed deals of more than £1 billion, creating almost 11,000 new jobs in the United Kingdom. There are huge opportunities for more jobs in India and the United Kingdom, and more security for both our countries.

Last week before his visit to India, I wrote to the Prime Minister, urging him to raise the human rights abuses against Kashmiris, and the increasingly Islamophobic direction of the Modi Government and the persecution of minorities. It seems, however, that the Prime Minister did not even think those grave human rights abuses worth a mention. That is frankly disgraceful. The Government cannot pick and choose the human rights abuses around the world that favour them. When will this Government fulfil their international obligation to the Kashmiris, and to those persecuted by the right-wing Modi Government in India?

On Kashmir, we encourage both sides to engage in dialogue and find lasting diplomatic solutions to maintain regional stability. We raise our concerns with the Governments of both India and Pakistan.

Following the question from the hon. Member for Bradford East (Imran Hussain), it is important that we strengthen the UK’s economic and security relationships with India. It is equally important that we address the issue of human rights abuses, and the persecution of Christians and Muslims. What discussions have taken place to ensure that when it comes to addressing the persecution of Christians and Muslims, and the abuse of human rights in India, something is being done and India listens?

Of course we raise the issue of human rights with the Indian Government. Indeed, later this summer we will host a conference in London on the subject of religious freedom, led by my hon. Friend the Member for Congleton (Fiona Bruce). This is an important issue for us. Looking at the big picture, there is a huge opportunity for the United Kingdom to work more closely with India in the face of some appalling authoritarian regimes, particularly Russia, which has staged an unwarranted, unjustified invasion of Ukraine. It is important that leading democracies across the world stand up for freedom and democracy and work together.

To isolate Putin on the global stage, we must build the largest possible coalition against his illegal war. India is one country that has so far stayed neutral. The Prime Minister spent last week in India, but No. 10 admitted that he failed even to mention India’s neutrality in his meeting with Prime Minister Modi. That follows the Foreign Secretary’s own failed trip to India where she failed to demonstrate any progress in bringing India into the international coalition condemning Putin’s aggression against Ukraine. Will the Foreign Secretary explain that failure and commit to asking her counterparts in India to oppose Putin’s barbaric war?

Of course, I have discussed the issue of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine with the Indian Government, but the right hon. Gentleman is completely wrong if he thinks that the right approach for Britain is to go around finger-wagging to the rest of the world rather than working to build strong relationships and partnerships to attract India and others to work more closely with us. On both my visit and the Prime Minister’s visit, we succeeded in moving forward our relationships on trade, investment and defence, generating jobs in Britain and in India with the ultimate goal of working more closely together as fellow democracies and moving away from dependence on authoritarian regimes. The fact is that the right hon. Gentleman prefers gesture politics to getting things done. [Interruption.]