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Indian Defence Minister gets ceremonial Guard of Honour in UK, signs cadet exchange pact

Indian Defence Minister gets ceremonial Guard of Honour in UK, signs cadet exchange pact
Courtesy: Leon Neal / Staff | Getty Images News Via Getty Images

The strength of the partnership between British and Indian Armies was in focus as Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh received a formal ceremonial welcome to the UK with a ceremonial Guard of Honour by the British Army’s Number 7 Company Coldstream Guards and the Band of the Irish Guards in London.

UK Secretary of State for Defence Grant Shapps greeted Singh at the iconic Horse Guards Parade ground, framed by the Old Admiralty on one side, 10 Downing Street on the other and with a clear view of Buckingham Palace this week. The Captain of the Guard, Captain Zacharias Faja, invited the Indian dignitary to inspect the Guard of Honour in Hindi, which the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) said reflected the ultimate respect to the esteemed visitor.

The MoD said: “India is an equal partner for the UK, and that friendship is highly valued, as today’s Guard of Honour testifies. India and the UK are committed to a partnership that delivers for both countries. That shared vision is for revitalised and dynamic connections between our people; re-energised trade, investment and technological collaboration that improves the lives and livelihoods of our citizens; enhanced defence and security cooperation that brings a more secure Indian Ocean Region and Indo-Pacific and India-UK leadership in climate, clean energy and health that acts as a global force for good.

“To do this, the UK and India are working together under the Defence Consultative Group, embarking on a new, ambitious Strategic Collaborative Partnership on research, innovation, technology and industry to develop transformational defence and security capabilities to tackle common threats and the operational challenges of the future.”

The ministers then moved to conduct their bilateral dialogue, which the Indian Ministry of Defence described as “very warm” and involving a “fruitful exchange of ideas on both sides”.

The official readout noted: “Both ministers discussed a range of defence, security and cooperation matters with particular emphasis on enhancing defence industrial collaboration. Mr Grant Shapps stressed that the relationship between UK and India is not transactional, instead both countries are natural partners with many commonalities and shared goals.

“The Raksha Mantri noted with appreciation the growing strategic convergence between the two countries, particularly in the Indo-Pacific. The bilateral defence meeting was followed by the signing of two agreements between India and UK – an MoU (memorandum of understating) on conduct of bilateral international cadet exchange programme, and a Letter of Arrangement between Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and UK's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) on defence collaboration in research and development. These documents will provide impetus to the people-to-people exchanges particularly among the youth, and larger area of defence research collaboration between the two countries.”

Singh began his UK tour with a visit to Mahatma Gandhi’s statue at London’s Tavistock Square on January 9, a symbolic date from the perspective of Mahatma Gandhi's return from South Africa to Mumbai in 1915. The date is commemorated annually in the form of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in India, marking the rich contribution of the Overseas Indian community towards the development of the country.

A visit to the Ambedkar Museum to pay tributes to the architect of the Indian Constitution, Dr B.R. Ambedkar, prayers at Neasden Temple were also on the ministerial agenda in London.

The visit is seen as significant for the UK-India Defence partnership, coming after a gap of 22 years as the last Indian defence ministerial visit took place in January 2002. 

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