The exchange of views on defence and security, though, could be significant. British defence hardware, including the BAE Systems manufactured multi-role combat aircraft Eurofighter Typhoon, have been overlooked in favour of Israeli, French and US made equipment, while Russia has remained India’s principal military supplier. This might undergo a change. Johnson informed Modi that the new British aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth’s first deployment will be to the Indo-Pacific, which means a potential scope of collaboration with the Indian Navy.
New Delhi seems to sense Britain is in an economically vulnerable state and therefore susceptible to granting concessions. This could transpire to be wishful thinking, especially if the UK and EU strike an FTA. Nevertheless, Modi appears to have invited Johnson to be the chief guest on India’s Republic – the first such honour to be extended to a British head of government after John Major in 1993. While the latter’s participation is yet to be confirmed, greater cooperation – at least on paper – are on the cards.
There is, however, a suspicion in informed circles in London that any mouth-watering defence order from the Indian side would be conditional upon Britain extraditing Bangalore businessman Vijay Mallya to India. 10 months have passed since he lost his appeal against deportation at the London high court; yet he has not been sent back. Rumours are rife about an asylum application from him to British authorities being under consideration. Having shouted from the rooftop about bringing him back to face justice in India, anything other than achieving this would be a considerable loss of face for Modi.
In 2018, Modi fell out with Johnson’s immediate predecessor Theresa May on her inability to give assurances on a case that was then being heard in a magistrates’ court. The British judiciary or the asylum process is not under any government’s thumb, even though Modi might think so, given a person of Gujarati origin Priti Patel presently being home secretary or a key arbiter on the matter.