By Aditi Khanna
London, Mar 13 India sees "no post-Brexit challenges" but only opportunities for greater synergies with the UK in naval cooperation, Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said here.
Lanba, who is on a four-day visit to Britain, described the UK as India's preferred port of call in northern Atlantic due to the "strong bonds" of defence cooperation.
"Over the years, our multi-faceted bilateral relations have grown from strength to strength to a sustained and mutually beneficial friendship. We have a common perspective on maritime challenges and agree to developing a cooperative framework to face them," Lanba said during a discussion on 'Martime strategy and its contribution to the Indo-Pacific and global commons' at the Institute of Strategic Studies here.
"The maritime bonds between our two countries have been further cemented to a deepening defence cooperation. Konkan, the bilateral naval exercise, is the cornerstone of our maritime cooperation and the UK has been a preferred port of call whenever we operate in the northern Atlantic," he said, adding that one of India's ships will head to the UK later this year to participate in the Konkan 19 exercise.
First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sir Philip Jones hailed the leadership role played by the Royal Navy alongside the Indian Navy.
"There are obvious similarities between our two navies – a shared outlook, common goals, very clear intentions for the future, reflected in ambitious shipbuilding programmes and maritime innovation programmes.
"Britain and India are both in the list of top 10 Indian economies and those powerful economies are built on a bedrock of global maritime trade," he said.
Later, during a conversation on the background in reference to the growing presence of China in the Indian Ocean, Admiral Lanba described it as a challenge on which India keeps a close eye. He referred to an estimated six to eight Chinese units in the northern part of the Indian Ocean at any given time as well as submarines.
"No nation has invested as much as China in shipbuilding. It is a challenge; we keep a close eye on their presence and deployments... it is here to stay," he said.
Lanba is set to hold talks with the UK Chief of Defence Staff as well as visit the Naval Base in Portsmouth for a tour of the HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier as part of the India-UK Carrier Capability Partnership.
On Tuesday, British Prime Minister Theresa May suffered yet another crushing Parliament defeat over Brexit when MPs overwhelmingly rejected her plan to quit the EU, plunging the UK into a further period of political uncertainty just 17 days before its divorce from the bloc.
The March 29 deadline for Brexit kicked in when the UK triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty following a referendum in favour of Brexit by nearly 52 per cent to 48 per cent in June 2016. AK CPS