India–United Kingdom relations

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Indo-British relations
Map indicating locations of UK and India

United Kingdom

High Commissioner James David Bevan High Commissioner Ranjan Mathai
British Prime Minister David Cameron with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a bilateral, November 2014.

Indian–British relations are foreign relations between India and the United Kingdom. India has a high commission in London and two consulates-general in Birmingham and Edinburgh.[1] The United Kingdom has a high commission in New Delhi and five deputy high commissions in Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kolkata.[2] Both countries are full members of the Commonwealth of Nations. Historically, the UK ruled India for nearly 100 years before Indians gained independence in 1947.

In India, English is one of the official languages, and cricket is one of the most popular sports. In the UK, Indian cuisine is hugely popular. Britain imports most of its tea from India, and there are a number of words of Indian origin in the English language. India is the third largest investor in the British economy. The UK has an ethnic Indian population of over 1.6 million. Prime Minister David Cameron described Indian – British relations as the "New Special Relationship" in 2010.[3][4]

Since becoming the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Cameron has been actively involved in enhancing the Indian-British relations on various dimensions, such as ”business, energy security, climate change, education, research, security and defense, and international relations."[5] His effort can be seen in his political visits in India on February 18th - February 20th, 2013 [6] and on November 14th, 2013.[7] Following his visit, other politicians such as Former UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne visited India to accomplish a trade mission in July 2014.[8] During their visit, Osborne announced that a statue of Gandhi would be erected in London Parliament Square to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Gandhi's return to India from South Africa. Upon unveiling the statue on March 14th, 2015, Cameron stated that "Our ties with India have remained close throughout history and continue to go from strength to strength – through mutual respect as equals, through cooperation, trade, and of course through the one-and-a-half million Indian diasporas living in Britain today who bring our two nations closer, to the benefit of both." He further commented that the statue will "enrich the firm bond of friendship between the world's oldest democracy and its largest."[9]


East India Company (1600–1857)[edit]

Trade was established between Tudor England and Mughal India in 1600 when Elizabeth I granted the newly formed East India Company a royal charter. After the Mughal Empire's decline in 1707, India was a leading manufacturing country in the world in the early 18th century. It had 22.6 percent share of the world's GDP, by the time British left the country its GDP was near 4%.During 18th century East India Company began to gain greater influence in India. The Battle of Plassey in 1757 led to the conquest of Bengal while by 1857, following various wars with Indian kingdoms (such as the Anglo-Mysore Wars with Tipu Sultan, the Anglo-Maratha Wars and the Anglo-Sikh wars), the East India Company had conquered most of the Indian subcontinent. Following the Indian rebellion of 1857, where Indian sepoys rebelled against their British officers, the East India Company collapsed the following year. The assets of the British East India Company became so huge that the British government decided to step in. India served as the main base for the British Empire's expansion across Asia and would remain the empire's most important colony until independence. Queen Victoria was named Empress of India. From a small trading outpost, India became the jewel in the British crown.

British Raj (1858–1947)[edit]

In 1858, the British Government assumed direct control of the territories and treaty arrangements of the former East India Company. In 1876, the area, which included modern India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, became "The Indian Empire" (often known historically as the 'British Raj') with British Monarch Queen Victoria proclaimed as "Empress of India" (a title held by her successors until 1947). The British Indian Army was established and assisted Britain in many wars, including the Anglo-Afghan Wars, the Anglo-Gurkha Wars, the Anglo-Burmese Wars, the First and Second Opium Wars, and both World Wars.

End of the British Raj[edit]

The Indian independence movement gained traction following the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Opposition to British rule, both through violent revolutions (as exemplified by Sardar Bhagat Singh and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose) and through nonviolent resistance (as exemplified by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi) eventually led to Indian independence in 1947. Partition of India created new entities out of the erstwhile British Raj : India & Pakistan.

Dominion of India (1947–1950)[edit]

Further information: Dominion of India

Independence came in 1947 with the Partition of India into the union of India, and the Dominion of Pakistan, within the Commonwealth of Nations. King George VI, who as British Monarch had been "Emperor of India", abandoned this title in 1947, and served as India's ceremonial head of state as 'King of India' (in much the same way, he also served as 'King of Pakistan'). In 1950 India became a Republic and the link with the British crown was severed.

The Dominion was part of the Sterling Area (the Republic of India finally leaving in 1966).

Republic of India (since 1950)[edit]

India decided to remain in the Commonwealth of Nations after becoming a Republic. Both Britain and India have since pursued quite divergent diplomatic paths.

In particular, India became a major force within the Non-Aligned Movement, which initially sought to avoid taking sides during the Cold War. This contrasted with Britain's position as a founding member of NATO, and key ally of the United States.

However, relations between the two countries have generally been tolerable.

Due mainly to post independence immigration, there are now over a million people of Indian descent in the United Kingdom.


India is the third largest foreign investor in the UK, and the UK is also a significant investor in India.[10] There are many bilateral trade agreements between the two nations designed to strengthen ties. For example, in 2005, the Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) was inaugurated in New Delhi aimed at boosting two-way bilateral investments.

The growth of India's multinational companies contributed greatly to UK's business and economy. As of 2014, Indian companies in the UK generated over 19 billion pounds.[11] Also, they have employed more than 100,000 people in the UK. Tata group alone employed over 55,000 people in the UK.[12] This kind of phenomena, where non-Western countries impact the West, has been commented on by sociologist Anthony Giddens as "reverse colonialism." The British government has chosen India as one of its most influential trade partners because it is one of the "fastest growing economies in the world."[13] In 2013, Cameron formed the biggest trade delegation by accommodating more than 100 representatives that varied from multinational corporations, medium-to-small-sized corporations, and universities to India.[14] Compared to the 2010 trade mission, the UK and India negotiated to double the trade volume by 2015. [15] Following the trade delegation, total UK goods and services exports to India increased by 14% from January to September 2013.


Various Indian students have gone to the UK to attain higher levels of education. From 2004 to 2009, the number of Indian students studying in the UK doubled from 10,000 to over 20,000.[16] By 2009, India was one of the top ten countries sending students to study in the UK.[17] Because the number of students grew, the British government and the Indian government agreed to cooperate.

During the 2010 UK-India Summit, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and India came into agreement to support education by implementing the India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI). In this summit, Cameron stated that "Education is an area where India and the UK could pool some of the advantages for mutual benefit." He continued by stating that a higher quality of education would lead to providing opportunities for all, thus encouraging economic growth and overcoming poverty for India.[18] However, after its implementation, the number of Indian students studying in the UK did not increase as expected by both governments. In 2010, Home Secretary Theresa May announced a stricter immigration law. This included tighter rules for international students. Students were forced to return to their homeland after earning their degree.[19] Since the immigration law, there has been a rapid decrease of 25% in the number of first year students from India during the year 2012-2013.[20] Theresa May's action has been criticized by people such as historian Edward Acton. Acton stated that this action is "butchering" the Anglo-Indian friendship because it is "treating university students as immigrants."[21] The continuous drop in the number of international students, including Indians, has became controversial. Business leaders such as Sir James Dyson have commented that forcing international students to move back to their homeland can be detrimental to the British economy in the long term.[22] In March 2015, Phillip Hammond stated during an interview with DD News that Theresa May's policy has been cancelled. Starting from 2015, Indian students are able to stay in the UK for six years after their graduation.[23]


Cooperation is undertaken under the Defence Consultative Group (DCG) formed in 1995. India and the UK cooperate in a number of ways. Joint Indo-UK exercise (a ten-day exercise Emerald Mercury was held in India in March 2005, the first of its kind between the two countries, which marked the biggest land deployment of British military personnel in India), research and technology and defence equipment collaboration.

After its formation, high level visits within countries occurred regularly. India's Chief of Air Staff Arup Raha visited UK on September 10th-13th and UK's Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon visited India on October 28th-29th, 2014.[24]

Britain supports India’s case for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council as well as bilateral cooperation in civilian nuclear technology.

The UK and India also cooperate on security and terrorism issues.

The UK was unable to win the Indian MRCA competition, in spite of a billion pound aid pledge that International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said was intended to help win the bid.[25] India's former Finance Minister and current President of India, Pranab Mukherjee regards this aid as unnecessary and characterized it as "peanuts".[26] Britain has decided to withdraw aid to India by 2015, against the wishes of Save the Children who point out that India accounts for a quarter of all global child deaths.[10]


Politically, relations between India and the UK occur mostly through the multilateral organisations of which both are members, such as the Commonwealth of Nations, the World Trade Organisation and the Asian Development Bank.

Three Presidents of India have paid state visits to the United Kingdom: Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in June 1963,[27] Ramaswamy Venkataraman in October 1990,[27] and Pratibha Patil in 2009.[27]

HM Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom paid state visits to India in November 1963, April 1990, and in October 1997.[28][29]

According to French diplomat Marc Fonbaustier, the relations between the two countries are key in the UK's geopolitical strategy in Asia because they share a base of common values. India is the hope for a Western style development based on democracy versus the Beijing consensus of state-guided growth.[30]

See also[edit]


BBC World Service Country Rating Poll Data for UK & India[edit]

According to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, 43% of Indians view the United Kingdom's influence positively, 30% neutral and 27% expressing a negative view, while 45% of the British view India's influence positively, 9% neutral and 46% expressing a negative view.[31]

Results of 2014 BBC World Service poll.
Views of India's influence by country[32]
Sorted by Pos-Neg
Country polled Positive Negative Neutral Pos-Neg
 Germany 16 68 16 -52
 Pakistan 21 58 21 -37
 Spain 20 50 30 -30
 Israel 9 34 57 -25
 Mexico 26 37 37 -11
 South Korea 36 47 17 -11
 France 40 49 11 -9
 China 27 35 38 -8
 Canada 38 46 16 -8
 Peru 26 31 43 -5
 Australia 44 46 10 -2
 United Kingdom 45 46 9 -1
 United States 45 41 14 4
 Brazil 41 36 23 5
 Turkey 35 29 36 6
 Chile 35 21 44 14
 Indonesia 47 24 29 23
 Japan 34 9 57 25
 Kenya 53 23 24 30
 Ghana 53 22 25 31
 India 56 22 22 34
 Russia 45 9 46 36
 Nigeria 64 22 14 42
Results of 2014 BBC World Service poll.
Views of the United Kingdom's influence by country[33]
Sorted by Pos-Neg
Country polled Positive Negative Neutral Pos-Neg
 Pakistan 39 35 26 4
 Spain 41 36 23 5
 Turkey 39 30 31 9
 China 39 26 35 13
 Mexico 40 25 35 15
 India 43 27 30 16
 Germany 51 34 15 17
 Peru 41 21 38 20
 Brazil 45 25 30 20
 Russia 44 16 40 28
 Chile 45 15 40 30
 Indonesia 59 26 15 33
 Israel 50 6 44 44
 Japan 47 2 51 45
 Nigeria 67 22 11 45
 United Kingdom 72 23 5 49
 France 72 20 8 52
 Australia 73 18 9 54
 South Korea 74 14 12 60
 Kenya 74 10 16 64
 Ghana 78 9 13 69
 Canada 80 9 11 71
 United States 81 10 9 71


  1. ^ High Commission of India in the UK
  2. ^ British embassy in India
  3. ^ Morris, Chris (27 July 2010). "Does India want a 'special relationship' with UK?". BBC News. 
  4. ^ Nelson, Dean (7 July 2010). "Ministers to build a new 'special relationship' with India". The Daily Telegraph. 
  5. ^ UK Government website Retrieved April 1, 2015
  6. ^ "David Cameron in India" Retrieved April 2, 2015
  7. ^ "David Cameron's visit to India" Retrieved April 2, 2015
  8. ^ "William Hague and George Osborne visit India" Retrieved April 3, 2015
  9. ^ UK Government Website"Gandhi statue to be unveiled in Parliament Square on March 14" Retrieved March 31, 2015
  10. ^ a b "UK to end financial aid to India by 2015". BBC News. BBC. Retrieved 24 December 2013. 
  11. ^ Anuj Chande, "India meets Britain, Tracking the UK's top Indian companies" "Grant Thorton" Retrieved April 6,2015
  12. ^ Anuj Chande, "India meets Britain, Tracking the UK's top Indian companies" "Grant Thorton" Retrieved April 6,2015
  13. ^ UK Government Website[1] Retrieved March 31, 2015
  14. ^ Nicholas Watt, "David Cameron's India trade delegation: who's in it" "The Guardian" February 18,2013
  15. ^ George Parker,"Cameron bats for British trade in India" "FT" February 18, 2013
  16. ^ "Non-UK domicile students" "Higher Education Statistics Agency" Retrieved April 4, 2015
  17. ^ "Why students prefer to study in UK Colleges or Universities" "The Sunday Times" May 30, 2010
  18. ^ UK Government Website[2] Retrieved April 5, 2015
  19. ^ Tom Whitehead"Tens of thousands of foreign students face the axe to the cut immigration numbers" "The Telegraph" November 22, 2010
  20. ^ Chris Parr"Anglo Indian ties have been butchered by May" "Times Higher Education" January 23,2014
  21. ^ Chris Parr"Anglo Indian ties have been butchered by May" "Times Higher Education" January 23,2014
  22. ^ John Bingham"Sir James Dyson: Theresa May risks ‘long-term economic decline’ over foreign students" "The Telegraph" January 4, 2015
  23. ^ "British Foreign Secy Philip Hammond endorses 'Make in India' ""DD News" March 13,2015
  24. ^ [3]"High Commission in India" Retrieved April 6, 2015
  25. ^ Shipman, Tim. "France swoops to rob UK of £13bn Indian jet contract despite Government promises aid package would secure deal." Daily Mail, 31 January 2012.
  26. ^ India announces plans for Mars probe as ambitious space programme takes another step
  27. ^ a b c "Ceremonies: State visits". Official web site of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  28. ^ "OUTWARD STATE VISITS MADE BY THE QUEEN SINCE 1952". Official web site of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  29. ^ "OUTWARD STATE VISITS MADE BY THE QUEEN SINCE 1952". Official web site of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 2011-05-24. 
  30. ^ Eric Deville, Op-Ed: Cameron’s visit to India — Pounds, rupees and democracy, Digital Journal, 20 February 2013
  31. ^ 2014 World Service Poll BBC
  32. ^ "BBC World Service poll" (PDF). BBC. 3 June 2014. 
  33. ^ "BBC World Service poll" (PDF). BBC. 3 June 2014. 

External links[edit]