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India-UK Bilateral Relations

There have been bilateral contacts between India and the United Kingdom for millennia. India was colonized by the UK for about 200 years before its independence in 1947. In the post-colonial age, the two nations had a complicated time frame due to the border tensions that emerged between India and Pakistan.

An Illustration on India UK Bilateral Relations

Illustration by The Geostrata

During the Cold War, India maintained an independent foreign policy that went against British interests by maintaining close ties with the Soviet Union and non-alignment.

The UK's resistance to India's acquisition of Goa and Sikkim, its support for Pakistan in Kashmir, its denunciation of India's nuclear testing, and its disapproval of an Indian Ocean Zone of Peace were among the points of dispute. As evidenced by the US-UK enabled military supplies to Pakistan, naval deterrence against India in the 1971 war, and condemnation of India's alleged pro-Soviet alignment, the UK regularly supported the US in its disputes with India throughout this time.

In general, the UK opposed independent India on several fronts and backed US efforts to limit Indian dominance during the Cold War. With Narendra Modi becoming the Prime Minister of India and the United Kingdom exiting the European Union, both countries began to understand their true potential and worked to develop partnerships.


With PM Modi implementing Atmanirbhar Bharat in the summer of 2020, the government raised the foreign ownership cap to 74%. It allowed the UK government to create the first Indian-specific open general export license given to an Indo-Pacific nation in April 2022. This would assist in the exports of military equipment and technology alongside civilian merchandise. 

There has been hindrance in industrial engagement between two nations as there is scepticism from London. The UK worries that the technology wouldn't be easily transferred due to the procurement policies India has making cooperation.

This is because of India-Russia comradery and the procurement policy that Delhi has made cooperation complicated. Inspired by these concerns, India and the UK have focused on the project that looked upon gas turbine propulsion for India’s next generation aircraft.

This is done by the UK's Rolls Royce and India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation. This is a significant boost as it promotes new arenas of cooperation that could be deepened. However, this needs to be enhanced as only about 3% of defence acquisitions have come from the UK. Finally the focus on electric propulsion is of matter.

The defence ministries of both nations formed a Joint Working Group on UK-India Electric Propulsion Capability Partnership in April 2022. The group met for the first time in the UK in March 2023, and in July, the nations convened a technical workshop on electric propulsion in New Delhi to share ideas.

The UK and India need to look upon crucial collaboration between its intelligence agencies where existential developments on Joint Extremism Task Force and migration needs to be elevated. This will help India provide confidence to the West as being a reliable security partner.


It could be inferred that  both countries want to develop their industrial and service sectors strongly to compete in the global economy. In 2023 India was the UK’s 12th largest trading partner contributing to less than 2% of total UK’s trade, so there should be improvements made in order to enhance trade by establishing Free Trade Zones and increasing private companies partnerships.  Both New Delhi and London had an increased trade by 9% in merchandise and services.

Exports to India totalled £14.9 billion, this includes Mechanical Power Generators, Metal Ores, Non- Ferrous Metals and General Industrial Machinery. UK's merchandise exports to India dropped by 31.8% to £5.7 billion.

Top exports falling were metal ores & scrap (£1.3 billion), mechanical power generators (£536.3 million), non-ferrous metals (£444.9million). The UK imports about £23.2 billion worth of goods and services. This includes Refined Oil(£1.5 billion), Clothing (£912.7 million), Mechanical Power Generators (£580.5 million).

Furthermore investments and trade agreements that can aid exports through boosting. The UK needs to improvise its export sector by creating stronger free trade agreements with India for enhanced exports to curtail the UK's trade deficit with India which is about 8.3 billion pounds, with a £ 4.3 billion merchandise trade deficit and 4 billion pounds deficit in services trade. 

It would help India gain substantial market influence in the UK and enhance its presence. Trade between the UK and India grew by 9% bilaterally, indicating good economic engagement. The UK has scope in improving its trade relations with India and the usage of its competitive advantage of services.

Services imports in India are skyrocketing including financial, telecom, intellectual property, and business services. This will help both economies in the emerging service sector and reduce uncertainty in the UK corporate sector for better cooperation with the Indian market. 


According to Jim O’Neill, India will soon be ‘one of the biggest influences on the world’. Therefore the UK has taken various steps to deepen its cultural partnership with India. Firstly the opening of deputy High Commissions in Ahmedabad, Chandigarh, and a British assistance office in Panaji. Subsequently, there are Consul General offices present in Edinburgh and Belfast that help in the enhancement of diplomatic ties between the two nations.

India's middle class, which speaks English and is growing at a rapid pace, offers the UK an opportunity to become India's main partner in trade, diplomacy, culture, and education.

This opportunity may disappear as India's younger generations think about other countries. As a result, the UK needs to move quickly to strengthen its already close relations with India, especially by interacting with the sizable Indian diaspora that currently resides there.

Indians account for nearly 25% of all student visas (133,237), a 5% rise from the previous year, and make up the bulk of students studying in the UK. This lets them understand the benefits of higher education here, shows how passionately Indians want to pursue it, and moves the nation closer to its goal of having Viksit Bharat by 2047.

Finally, as a possible source of future leaders by 2050, young people between the ages of 15 and 35 should be the focus of the UK-India Young Leaders/Next Generation Forum. These people should be identified, provided training and coaching, and convened in a group environment to exchange ideas and information.


The United Kingdom's long-standing relationship with India is constantly evolving. The two nations have many similarities due to their enormous expatriate populations, education, and culture. Nonetheless, there are prospects for growth, such as improving defence and commercial alliances. As India acquires worldwide prominence and cross-sector collaboration increases, both sides will benefit.

The growing middle class in India provides an opportunity for the United Kingdom to become a preferred partner. By combining their resources to promote leadership and youth engagement projects the two democracies can ensure that their alliance lasts for future generations. Increased economic, political, and cultural engagement has given the UK-India alliance a promising future, but there are still some difficulties to overcome.





our bilateral FTA is something that i'm eagerly awaiting to see


Economic ties, youth engagement and cultural exchanges are driving force in India-UK relations


Developing a strong alliance between the two nations.

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