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NEW DELHI: UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss will aim to forge stronger security and defence links with India on the second leg of her visit to the country that began with her landing in Mumbai on Saturday.

Truss' visit coincides with a British Carrier Strike Group anchoring off the Mumbai coast and taking part in exercises with the Indian Navy.

The foreign secretary visited the HMS Queen Elizabeth, described as the “spearhead" of the Carrier Strike Group (CSG), a symbol of the UK’s world-leading defence capability, according to a statement from the British high commission.

At 65,000 tonnes, HMS Queen Elizabeth is the largest surface vessel constructed in the UK. It leads six Royal Navy ships, a Royal Navy submarine, a US Navy destroyer and a frigate from the Netherlands in the Carrier Strike Group. This is the “largest concentration of maritime and air power to sail from the UK in a generation," the statement said.

The visit of the CSG to Mumbai is “a clear sign of our growing defence and maritime co-operation with India," the British High Commission statement said.

While in India the CSG is taking part in the most demanding exercise ever between undertaken between the UK and India, involving all three military services.

“During her visit the Foreign Secretary will progress talks to ramp up defence and security ties and boost strategic cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region. It will take forward joint work agreed by the Prime Minister (Boris Johnson) and Indian Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi in the landmark 2030 Roadmap on maritime security, cyber security and counter terrorism signed earlier this year," the statement said.

“She will also discuss developing innovative security and defence tech with the Indian government to tackle common threats and will talk through strengthening defence-related trade between the two countries," it said.

“The Foreign Secretary sees developing this security and defence relationship with India, the world’s largest democracy, as a key part of the UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt. She wants to strengthen such links with fast-growing economies and like-minded partners in the region and build ‘a network of liberty’ around the globe. The Foreign Secretary sees India as essential in ensuring a free, open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific," the statement said.

“Closer defence and security partnerships between the UK and India underpin deeper economic ties and make both countries, as well as the wider region, safer. We need to protect our sea and trade routes and, operating from a position of strength, be hard-headed in defending our interests and challenging unfair practices," Truss was quoted as saying by the statement.

“The arrival of the Carrier Strike Group in India this weekend represents the UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt in action. This is a true symbol of Global Britain, working closely with like-minded partners like India," she said.

The foreign secretary will join the Queen Elizabeth Carrier at sea to tour the vessel and observe live exercises involving UK and US F35B fighter jets.

UK Chief of Defence Staff Sir Nick Carter is also visiting Mumbai to see the Carrier Strike Group. He joined his Indian counterpart General Bipin Rawat in New Delhi to discuss regional security earlier this week.

“A strengthened partnership with India is a key pillar of the UK’s tilt to the Indo-Pacific. Our Carrier Strike group visit represents an important step towards our goal of establishing a maritime partnership with India in support of mutual security objectives in the Indian Ocean," UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace was quoted as saying by the statement.

 

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