India–United Kingdom relations

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Indo–British relations
Map indicating locations of United Kingdom and India

United Kingdom

Diplomatic mission
High Commission of the United Kingdom, New DelhiHigh Commission of India, London
British High Commissioner to India Alex EllisIndian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Gaitri Issar Kumar

India–United Kingdom relations (Hindi: भारत-यूके संबंध), also known as Indian–British relations or Indo–British relations, refers to international 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, Ahmedabad, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Kolkata.[2] Both countries are full members of the Commonwealth of Nations.

The United Kingdom has an Indian population of over 1.5 million. Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron described Indian–British relations as the "New Special Relationship" in 2010.[3][4]


East India Company (1600–1857)[edit]

Major General Wellesley commanding his troops at the Battle of Assaye in 1803

Trade was established between Tudor England and Mughal India in 1600 when Elizabeth I granted the newly formed East India Company a royal charter by sending precious gifts to the Mughal court of Emperor Akbar the Great. During the time of Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb in 1707, India was a leading manufacturer, with a 25 percent share of the world's GDP. By the time the British left the country its share of global GDP was near 4%. During the 18th century, the 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 treaties and wars with Indian kingdoms (such as the Anglo-Mysore Wars with Tipu Sultan, the Anglo-Maratha Wars and both the First and Second Anglo-Sikh Wars), the East India Company controlled most of the Indian subcontinent. Following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, where Indian sepoys rebelled against their British officers, the East India Company was dissolved 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 and main source of income as well as soldiers until independence. Queen Victoria became Empress of India in 1876. From a small trading outpost, India became the jewel in the British crown.

British Raj (1858–1947)[edit]

Capture of the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar and his sons by William Hodson in 1857

In 1858, the British Government seized 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.

The end of British rule[edit]

Mahatma Gandhi in 1947, with Lord Louis Mountbatten, Britain's last Viceroy of India

The Indian independence movement gained traction following the Indian Rebellion of 1857.[5] Opposition to British rule increased, where ideology of satyagraha or non-violence was taken to a height by Gandhiji while on another hand, 'self defense' or armed revolution embraced by Nationalists like by Bhagat Singh and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, eventually led to the dissolution of British Raj and Independence of India on 15 August 1947. However, the end of the Raj also resulted the Partition of India that resulted in two new entities, Dominion of Pakistan (which included the province of East Bengal that would later achieve independence as Bangladesh) and the Dominion of India.

Dominion of India (1947–1950)[edit]

Independence came in 1947 with the Partition of India into the dominions of India and 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). It is estimated the UK took wealth worth more than 48 Trillion US Dollars from India within the time of its rule[6]

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.


India is the second largest foreign investor in the UK.[7] While UK ranks 18th as a trading partner of India and third after Mauritius and Singapore as an investor in India.[8][additional citation(s) needed] 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 2019, Indian companies in the UK generated over 48 billion pounds.[9] Also, they have employed more than 105,000 people in the UK. Tata Group alone employed over 63,760 people in the UK.[9] This kind of phenomenon, where non-Western countries impact the West, has been commented on by sociologist Anthony Giddens as "reverse colonialism". At a dinner on 15 August 2017, held to mark 70 years of India's independence, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: "We in the UK are the beneficiaries of reverse colonialism." Johnson said the Jaguar car made in Castle Bromwich and exported back to India "in ever growing numbers" incarnated the "commercial role reversal" between India and the UK.[10] 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."[11] 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.[12] Compared to the 2010 trade mission, the UK and India negotiated to double the trade volume by 2015.[13] Following the trade delegation, total UK goods and services exports to India increased by 14% from January to September 2013. Between 6 and 8 November 2016, then British PM Theresa May visited India for a bilateral trip.[14] The key topic of discussions would be May's plan for post-Brexit relations with India. Discussion on a possible free-trade agreement is also in the agenda. According to a MEA(Ministry of External Affairs, India) spokesperson, there is "substantial scope for further strengthening bilateral cooperation across a range of sectors, including science & technology, finance, trade & investment, and defense & security."

Following a meeting between Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond at the 9th UK-India economic and financial dialogue, Jaitley announced that the two countries had agreed to discuss a bilateral free trade agreement. However, Jaitley stated that a formal dialogue on the agreement would only begin post-Brexit.[15]

In September 2017 the High Commission of India in the UK, with the support of the UK India Business Council, announced the Access India programme, a unique scheme set up to help many more UK SMEs export to India. Whilst many large UK companies have a presence in India, small and medium-sized British companies do not. India hopes that the Access to India programme will not only encourage British SMEs to export to India but also inspire them to manufacture in India fulfilling the aims of the Make in India initiative.[16]

The UK and India have remained close bilaterally, historically and on an ever expanding basis.


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.[17] By 2009, India was one of the top ten countries sending students to study in the UK.[18] 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.[19] However, after its implementation, the number of Indian students studying in the UK did not increase as expected by both governments. In 2010, the then 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.[20] 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.[21] Theresa May's action has been criticised 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 become 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 months after their graduation.[23]

Boris Johnson told Times of India in 2017 that "the number of Indian students in the UK continues to rise. Our most recent figures show a 10% increase in Indian students gaining visas – and 91% of these applications are successful. We want the brightest and best Indian students to attend our great universities; there is no limit to the number of genuine Indian students who can study in Britain," he said in the interview.[24]

If you look at education as a whole compared to Indian interests within the UK private education and high education like Oxford and Cambridge, and triple accredited business schools as it can be an entitled fact or observable proof that "The UK is the solution to Indian problems and that India is the solution to the UK's". The UK's education toward politics, economics, culture, and commerce is respected and highly regarded the world over.[25]


Jawaharlal Nehru with Winston Churchill, London, October 1948

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 Organization and the Asian Development Bank.

Three Presidents of India have paid state visits to the United Kingdom: Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in June 1963,[26] Ramaswamy Venkataraman in October 1990,[26] and Pratibha Patil in 2009.[26]

HM Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom paid state visits to India in November 1963, April 1990, and in October 1997.[27][28]

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited the UK in 2006.

After becoming the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Cameron was actively involved in enhancing the Indian-British relationship on various dimensions, such as "business, energy security, climate change, education, research, security and defense, and international relations."[29] His effort could be seen in his political visits in India on 18–20 February 2013 [30] and on 14 November 2013.[31] Following his visit, other politicians such as Former UK Foreign Secretary William Hague and the then Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne visited India to accomplish a trade mission in July 2014.[32] During their visit, Osborne announced that a statue of Gandhi would be erected in London's Parliament Square to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Gandhi's return to India from South Africa. Upon unveiling the statue on 14 March 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."[33]

David Cameron welcomes Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Downing Street for bilateral talks, 12 November 2015

In terms of political forces behind economic development, Western powers look to India as a case study contrasting democracy-led growth and state-guided growth, the latter of which has been the modus operandi for China.[34]

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the UK from 12 to 16 November 2015. During the visit, Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister to address the British Parliament.[35] The Times of India reported that agents from Mossad and MI5 were protecting Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was heading to the 2015 G-20 Summit in Antalya, Turkey. The paper reported that the agents had been called in to provide additional cover to Modi's security detail, composed of India's Special Protection Group and secret agents from RAW and IB, in wake of the November 2015 Paris attacks.[36][37]

Prime Minister Theresa May visited India on 6 November 2016 in her first bilateral visit to a non-European country since becoming Prime Minister. Explaining the decision, May said, "It [the visit] matters now more than ever. India is the fastest-growing major economy." May had previously referred to India as a "key strategic partner" in the aftermath of Britain voting to leave the European Union. She was accompanied by Trade Secretary Liam Fox and a delegation of 33 business leaders aiming to boost trade and investment between India and the United Kingdom.[38][39]

At a dinner held to mark 70 years of Indian independence and 70 years of the Indian Journalists' Association on 15 August 2017, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: "We in the UK are the beneficiaries of reverse colonialism." He gave as an example the Jaguar car made in Castle Bromwich and exported back to India, as well as the Hawk jets which are made by BAE Systems and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Of the Jaguar, he said the car incarnated "the commercial role reversal" between India and the UK.[10]

At the same dinner the UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said that the UK was working "ever more closely" with India to bring peace and stability to the Asia Pacific region, that the UK was increasingly co-operating in intelligence sharing with India and had no hesitation in sharing advanced technologies with India.[40]

In 2017 Times of India reported Boris Johnson as saying that in the first half of the year Britain gave nearly 500,000 visas to Indians – an eight per cent rise on the previous year. "Britain issues more visas to Indians than any other country in the world, apart from China." Mr Johnson said.[41]

Following a resolution passed by the Labour Party, which attempted to internationalise the Kashmir issue in September 2019, the Indian High Commission in London decided to boycott the party and its events, whilst attending events organised by the Conservative Party-affiliated Conservative Friends of India.[42][43] The Labour Party was historically the party of choice for many British Indians, but has lost support to the Conservatives in recent elections.[44]

Prime Minister Boris Johnson accepted the invitation to India's Republic Day in 2021, however, he later cancelled his itinerary due to COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom.[45]

Boris Johnson had also visited Ahmedabad, Gujarat in India in April 2022.

According to a 2014 BBC World Service poll, 43% of Indian people view the United Kingdom's influence as positive and 27% view as negative. Similarly, 45% of Britons viewed India positively and 46% negatively.[46]

2017 UK-India Year of Culture[edit]

UK-India Year of Culture official launch

Her Majesty The Queen hosted the official launch of the UK India Year of Culture on 27 February 2017 at Buckingham Palace with Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley representing Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The British Council worked with the Palace and British-Indian start-up Studio Carrom to project a peacock, India's national bird, onto the facade of Buckingham Palace.[47]

The programme for the year was announced by UK Minister of State for Digital and Culture Rt Hon Matt Hancock, Indian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom HE Mr Sinha and British Council Deputy Chair Rt Hon Baroness Prashar CBE PC, at the British Film Institute on 28 February 2017.[48] The programme includes an exhibition from the British Museum and The Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya in Mumbai,[49] the first exhibition on Indian innovation at the UK's Science Museum, London,[50] and the restoration of 1928 Indian movie, Shiraz, by the British Film Institute with a new score by British-Indian musician Anoushka Shankar.[51]

British Council Delhi Launch of Mix The City Delhi, 6 April 2017

The British Council inaugurated the Year of Culture in India on 6 April 2017 projecting elements of the Buckingham Palace Studio Carrom peacock onto the British Council's Delhi building and launching an interactive music app Mix the City Delhi.[52]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Welcome to High Commission of India, London, UK". Archived from the original on 15 January 2013.
  2. ^ "British High Commission New Delhi".
  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. Archived from the original on 21 July 2010.
  5. ^ Thorn, Gary (2001). End of empires : European decolonisation 1919–80 (1. publ., [Nachdr.]. ed.). London: Hodder & Stoughton. pp. 23, 24, 38–46. ISBN 9780340730447.
  6. ^ Chaudhury, Dipanjan Roy. "British looted $45 trillion from India in today's value: Jaishankar". The Economic Times.
  7. ^ "India moves up a rank to become second-largest source of FDI for UK". The Economic Times.
  8. ^ "UK to end financial aid to India by 2015". BBC News. BBC. 9 November 2012. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  9. ^ a b Anuj Chande, "India meets Britain, Tracking the UK's top Indian companies" "Grant Thorton" Retrieved 6 April 2019
  10. ^ a b Naomi Canton (17 August 2017). "We're beneficiaries of reverse colonialism: Boris". Times of India.
  11. ^ UK Government Website [1] Retrieved 31 March 2015
  12. ^ Nicholas Watt, "David Cameron's India trade delegation: who's in it" "The Guardian" 18 February 2013
  13. ^ George Parker,"Cameron bats for British trade in India" "FT" 18 February 2013
  14. ^ "India, UK to explore free trade deal during Theresa May's trip". The Times of India. Retrieved 5 November 2016.
  15. ^ "Brexit impact: India, UK may look at free trade agreement". Business Standard India. Press Trust of India. 4 April 2017. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
  16. ^ Naomi Canton (28 September 2017). "India to roll out red carpet to UK SMEs". Times of India.
  17. ^ "Non-UK domicile students" Archived 6 June 2015 at the Wayback Machine "Higher Education Statistics Agency" Retrieved 4 April 2015
  18. ^ "Why students prefer to study in UK Colleges or Universities" "The Sunday Times" 30 May 2010
  19. ^ UK Government Website [2] Retrieved 5 April 2015
  20. ^ Tom Whitehead "Tens of thousands of foreign students face the axe to the cut immigration numbers" "The Telegraph" 22 November 2010
  21. ^ a b Chris Parr "Anglo Indian ties have been butchered by May" "Times Higher Education" 23 January 2014
  22. ^ John Bingham "Sir James Dyson: Theresa May risks ‘long-term economic decline’ over foreign students" "The Telegraph" 4 January 2015
  23. ^ "British Foreign Secy Philip Hammond endorses 'Make in India' ""DD News" 13 March 2015
  24. ^ Naomi Canton (23 October 2017). "More Indian students choosing to go to UK: Boris Johnson". Times of India.
  25. ^ professional opinion, knowledge and experience
  26. ^ a b c "Ceremonies: State visits". Official web site of the British Monarchy. Archived from the original on 6 November 2008. Retrieved 28 November 2008.
  27. ^ "OUTWARD STATE VISITS MADE BY THE QUEEN SINCE 1952". Official web site of the British Monarchy. Archived from the original on 21 October 2008. Retrieved 28 November 2008.
  28. ^ "OUTWARD STATE VISITS MADE BY THE QUEEN SINCE 1952". Official web site of the British Monarchy. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
  29. ^ UK Government website Retrieved 1 April 2015
  30. ^ "David Cameron in India" Retrieved 2 April 2015
  31. ^ "David Cameron's visit to India 14 November 2013".
  32. ^ "William Hague and George Osborne visit India" Retrieved 3 April 2015
  33. ^ UK Government Website "Gandhi statue to be unveiled in Parliament Square on March 14" Retrieved 31 March 2015
  34. ^ Eric Deville, Op-Ed: Cameron’s visit to India — Pounds, rupees and democracy, Digital Journal, 20 February 2013
  35. ^ "India's message from Jaguar factory before PM Modi's UK visit: 'We are job makers, not job takers'". 11 November 2015.
  36. ^ "Mossad, MI5 roped in to shield Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Turkey?". The Times of India.
  37. ^ "Mossad may be protecting Modi at Turkey G20 summit, paper claims". The Times of Israel.
  38. ^ "May Flies to India to Prepare for Trade Deal After Brexit". 6 November 2016 – via
  39. ^ MacLellan, Kylie (6 November 2016). "UK PM Theresa May seeks to boost trade ties with India before Brexit". Reuters.
  40. ^ Naomi Canton (17 August 2017). "UK keen on working with India to check North Korea, British foreign secretary Boris Johnson say". Times of India.
  41. ^ Naomi Canton (23 October 2017). "More Indian students choosing to go to UK: Boris Johnson". Times of India.
  42. ^ "Indian diplomats attend Tory reception a week after snubbing Labour | India News - Times of India". The Times of India.
  43. ^ "Labour Party: After UK's Labour Party passes controversial motion on Kashmir, MEA says 'no question of engaging with them' | India News".
  44. ^ "UK's Labour party MPS push to recall Kashmir resolution that angered India". 4 October 2019.
  45. ^ Sanyal, Anindita (14 January 2021). "No Foreign Head Of State As Republic Day Chief Guest Due To Covid: Centre". NDTV. Retrieved 23 November 2021.
  46. ^ "Country Rating Poll" (PDF).
  47. ^ Prasun Sonwalkar (28 February 2017). "Indian colours, peacock light up the Buckingham Palace as British Queen plays host to India". Hindustan Times.
  48. ^ Prasun Sonwalkar (28 February 2017). "Himanshu Rai's 1928 film Shiraz restored for UK-India Year of Culture". Hindustan Times.
  49. ^ Poorva Joshi (3 February 2017). "An exhibition will showcase 5,000 years of Indian history in 9 stories". Hindustan Times.
  50. ^ Aditi Khanna (5 February 2017). "India season kicks off in Britain". Hindustan Times.
  51. ^ Suresh Chabria (3 April 2017). "Restored classic 'Shiraz' is as timeless as the Taj Mahal monument that inspired it".
  52. ^ Chanpreet Khurana (6 April 2017). "A world of sounds: A new site invites you to play DJ, with Delhi and Mumbai as your muse".

External links[edit]