Interview: Mr James Heappey, Minister for Defence Procurement, UK

Sub Title : The young minister, a former Army Officer, understands defence and strategy well as was apparent from his articulations in the interview below. During his brief visit to India and DefExpo 2020 Lucknow, he attended several meetings and events and expressed his government’s keenness to engage and partner with India at all levels in the field of defence manufacturing.

Issues Details : Vol 14 issue1 Mar-Apr 2020

Author : Col Ashwani Sharma

Page No. : 45

Category : Military Affairs

: April 2, 2020

Lucknow; DefExpo 2020 had many firsts. First major military Expo in Uttar Pradesh, the first one with 1000 exhibitors and more, the first one with live demonstrations on land and water, and the very first one with its own tent city created for the purpose. Adding to the list was the visit of newly elected British MP and Minister for Defence Procurement, Mr James Heappey, who made his first overseas visit to India as a minister. That is a statement by itself, signifying the importance that the new British Government attaches to its ties with India, particularly in the field of defence and strategy. During his interaction with South Asia Defence & Strategic Review on 06 February, the minister spoke on certain key issues related to this domain.

Excerpts from the exclusive interaction: –

India UK Relationship

India is seen as a long-term partner and a partner of choice. We cherish the history and wish to improve upon the bilateral ties. UK industry has a lot to offer in terms of defence technologies and good manufacturing practices. UK would be more than happy to step forward and work with Indian industry to move forward.

Our suggestion for India is Create in India, design and develop in India, and Make in India. I heard Prime Minister Modi’s Opening Address at the DefExpo and the message is clear – make India self-reliant. I support the Prime Minister’s vision of indigenisation. The government of United Kingdom would be more than happy to help India realise that dream.

Political Support

The UK government is very aware of the potential that defence manufacturing has in terms of creating employment and wealth. We support the industry in its endeavor to manufacture and create jobs. We will like to see that happen in the United Kingdom and would be happy to see that synergy in India as well. We are encouraging and supporting the UK industry to partner with their counterparts in India and form joint ventures in defence production. It would be our endeavor to see business flourish here in India and create jobs for the youth and also indulge in skill development.

British government will be more than happy to cooperate with India.

Strategic Partnership

We would be keen to join hands with the Indian industry to produce high quality military hardware. We are looking at the projects which involve strategic partnership and are keen to participate in some of them. I will support all initiatives needed to give this partnership a forward push.

Core Areas of Interest

In response to a question on UK’s core areas of interest in the defence domain, the minister spoke of contours of future warfare and referred to the fast-changing technologies.  In his opinion, military acquisitions must build capability for future wars which are changing rapidly due to advancement in technologies.

Minister Heapps supported the idea of greater military to military dialogue and suggested that greater interaction between the two militaries can bring about closer cooperation in all areas including procurement and production.

Reciprocal Engagement

Interestingly, the minister also spoke of reciprocity between the two nations. He is of the opinion that there is much to be gained from the Indian experience and expertise and that the two nations can benefit a great deal from each other. Military hardware produced in India can also be exported markets elsewhere in Asia and other parts of the globe. MSMEs of both the countries can also join the supply chain and become a significant part of the entire arrangement, the purpose of which is to make the countries self-reliant in defence, create jobs and proper