UK Defence Firms Should Invest, Make, Co-Create, Co-Develop in India, Says Vice Chair, UKIBC


New Delhi: In a boost to India’s investment climate, the UK India Business Council (UKIBC) has said the Indo-Pacific region is the economic growth engine of the world and companies from the United Kingdom are looking at engaging more with India as a place to invest, manufacture, co-create and co-develop.

Noting that India is geopolitically important, Richard McCallum, vice chair of UKIBC, said India cannot be seen through just the export of goods perspective. He was hopeful of the early completion of a proposed Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between India and the UK, which he said would open up more opportunities.

McCallum, who looks after the defence sector at the UKIBC, noted that this sector traditionally sits outside the standard FTA, but added that there are aspects that are important to UKIBC defence members. He cited Intellectual Property Rights and customs duty as a common goal for companies. Anything that can improve the operating environment would be beneficial and welcomed by our members, he said.

On  the recent visit of the British Navy’s Carrier Strike Group to Mumbai, McCallum said it was a marker of the UK’s ambitions in the region and its desire to strengthen its relationship with India.

Asked about the UK’s sudden tilt to the Indo-Pacific, McCallum said, “This is both economic and security imperative at work. The growth is going to come from this region. This region is the economic growth engine of the world.”

“The UK wants to establish links in this region, especially since it is not part of the EU. And for the security aspect as well… India is geopolitically very important and the UK’s engagement is a reflection of that,” he said.

McCallum said UKIBC has been encouraging its defence members to look at India not just from the export of goods perspective. “What I am telling my members is to think of India as a place to invest, a place to make, co-create, co-develop. Eventually we hope to export from India. So that is our strategy,” he said.

“There are a lot of companies (British) that are investing here (India). There are more in the pipeline. It is true that UK companies (contribution) are under the radar. For example, in Tejas aircraft, a lot of that technology is from the UK,” he said, adding that they are looking at future projects but “not necessarily headlining the programme”.

Asked what more can India do to help UK businesses grow here, he said New Delhi’s ranking on ease of business has improved drastically.

“Anything that continues to improve the operating environment is welcome. FDI was increased to 74 per cent (defence sector) but could be streamlined further. Whatever the Government of India can do to improve ease, business will follow. UK companies want to partner with Indian companies, want to be part of this market,” he said.