UK, India kick off Track 1.5 Defence & Military Tech dialogue

UK, India kick off Track 1.5 Defence & Military Tech dialogue

Against the backdrop of the India-UK Roadmap 2030, a new focused and policy-relevant discussion in an off-the-record “Track 1.5” format was kicked off this week with the first UK-India Defence and Military Technology Cooperation workshop in London.

The workshop, backed by the High Commission of India in London, was conceived by the think tank International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and organised in partnership with Bharat Shakti – an influential defence portal in India. The central objective was to explore ways to enhance two-way collaborations in the sector.

Vikram Doraiswami, Indian High Commissioner to the UK, said: “This is very much part of what we are trying to achieve in the relationship, to move the strategic and defence pillar forward.

“It is eminently doable, and within our reach. The presence of so many distinguished folks suggests that there is a forward-leaning approach of His Majesty’s government and I can assure you it is fully reciprocated. We do want to develop this pillar further.”

Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, Senior Fellow for South and Central Asia at IISS who championed the Track 1.5 format dialogue in this sphere, set out the landscape for the workshop attended by senior government officials and sectoral and industry experts. Post-Brexit, the UK’s ‘Integrated Review’ recognised India as one of the three most important powers in its “tilt” to the Indo-Pacific region. The objective towards India was to “transform bilateral cooperation over the next 10 years across the full range of bilateral shared interests”. Four months ago, the ‘Integrated Review Refresh’ made the UK’s two-year old “tilt” to the Indo-Pacific a permanent pillar of its international policy. It also highlighted “progressing collaboration on technology”, with reference to the India-UK Roadmap of May 2021.

The questions considered during the sessions covered:

  • Do recent UK and India convergences on the Indo-Pacific region (including on China) provide opportunities to overcome some of their past strategic divergences (including on Pakistan)? 

  • What are the new opportunities that have emerged between the UK and India?

  •  How important is the Indian Ocean to these new ties?

  • How best to maximise these opportunities and minimise key strategic divergences?

  • How will the recent “stepped up” US-India strategic relations as well as France-India defence ties impact these UK-India opportunities?

  • As also, India’s policy towards Russia during the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war?

Roy-Chaudhury reflected: “The single most important objective of the workshop is to serve as a catalyst for change in the India-UK defence relationship by building mutual trust and identifying key opportunities for defence research collaboration and defence industrial partnerships.

“This is to take place through a more sophisticated understanding of the evolving convergences in their respective foreign and security policies; identifying mutual defence capabilities and limitations along with national technological priorities; seeking to overcome challenges to building collaborative defence industrial partnerships; and ensuring a continuous process of high-level informal ‘Track 1.5’ engagement between both countries.”


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Despite ‘Defence and Security’ being identified as a key pillar of bilateral ties under India-UK Roadmap, the strategic expert is of the view that collaborative defence research and industrial production partnerships between the two countries remain “underwhelming”.

“Clearly, much more could and needed to be done,” he added.

Besides a drop-in by UK National Security Adviser (NSA) Sir Tim Barrow, the workshop attracted high-level participation:

  • Ambassador P.S. Raghavan, Chairman of the National Security Advisory Board (NSAB), Government of India

  • Matthew Collins, UK's Deputy NSA (Intelligence, Defence and Security)

  • Dr Ajay Kumar, India's former Defence Secretary and Defence Production Secretary

  • Shimon Fhima, Director, Strategic Programmes, UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD)

  • David Williams, Permanent Secretary, MoD

  • Dr G. Satheesh Reddy, former Scientific Advisor to India's Defence Minister and former chairman, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO)

  • Conrad Banks, Chief Engineer, Defence Future Programmes, Rolls-Royce plc

  • Ashok Atluri, Chairman and Managing Director, Zen Technologies Limited

  • Richard McCallum, CEO, UK India Business Council (UKIBC)

  • Nitin Gokhale, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Bharat Shakti


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