UK’s Johnson to offer India help to build its own fighter jets

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson waves during his visit at the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, India, 21 April 2022. Boris Johnson is in Ahmedabad during a two-day trip to India. [EPA-EFE/KRUTIKARAJ SOLANKI]

Britain is set to offer India know-how to build its own fighter jets and a licence for faster deliveries of defence equipment when the prime ministers of the two countries meet on Friday (22 April), as the West tries to wean India away from Russia.

In his first visit to New Delhi as prime minister, Boris Johnson will discuss with Narendra Modi boosting trade and security ties with the South Asian country that buys more than half of its military hardware from Russia.

“The world faces growing threats from autocratic states which seek to undermine democracy, choke off free and fair trade and trample on sovereignty,” Johnson said in a statement after visiting Modi’s home state of Gujarat on Thursday.

“The UK’s partnership with India is a beacon in these stormy seas. Our collaboration on the issues that matter to both our countries, from climate change to energy security and defence, is of vital importance as we look to the future.”

He was expected to discuss “support for new Indian-designed and built fighter jets, offering the best of British know-how on building battle-winning aircraft”, the statement said.

Former colonial ruler Britain will issue a so-called open general export licence to India to shorten delivery times for defence items. Currently only the European Union and the United States have such a licence, according to Johnson’s spokesperson.

In an attempt to move India away from Russia, the United States has also offered more defence and energy sales to New Delhi. Despite pressure from the United States, Modi’s government has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine except for calling for an end to violence.

Russia's Lavrov hopes to bypass sanctions in trade with ‘friend’ India

Russia will increase its use of non-Western currencies for trade with countries such as India, its foreign minister said on Friday, as he hailed New Delhi as a friend that was not taking a “one-sided view” on the Ukraine war.

India has also continued to buy Russian oil, reasoning that European countries were doing the same and in much greater quantities.

As West shuns Moscow, officials say India eyes more cheap Russian oil

India may take up a Russian offer to buy oil and other commodities at a discount, Indian officials said, in a sign that Delhi wants to keep its trading partner on board despite Western attempts to isolate Moscow through sanctions.

Nevertheless, Modi has said the Ukraine war has raised the need for India to increase its domestic production of defence equipment. India faces a superior Chinese army at their disputed Himalayan border.

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