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‘Inappropriate if China is arming Russia’s illegal war against Ukraine,’ says UK Navy chief

UK’s First Sea Lord & Navy Chief Ben Key says his country wants a partnership with India, including for transfer of technology for naval electric propulsion & jet engines. 

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New Delhi: Amid fears that China could supply lethal weapons to Russia like artillery and armed drones, a top British military officer has said it is “inappropriate” of Beijing if it is enabling Russian President Vladimir Putin to act as illegally as he is doing in Ukraine at the moment. 

First Sea Lord and UK chief of Naval Staff Ben Key also said every country is obliged to have relations with China since they are a large influential country and the best option is to have an open and honest relationship with them. This will allow everyone to understand each other and respect each other. 

Speaking to a select group of journalists on the sidelines of the Raisina Dialogue 2023, which concluded Sunday, Key also sought deeper bilateral defence cooperation with India and said the UK is willing to offer transfer of technology for hi-tech systems like jet engine technology. 

Responding to a question from ThePrint over fears that China could supply Russia with weapons, the UK navy chief said provided that the relationship between Moscow and Beijing is enabled around peace and prosperity for those two nations, it is not for anyone to view with any concern. 

“But if what China is doing is to enable and perpetuate Russia’s outrageous violation of Ukrainian sovereignty the way it is currently doing, potentially to provide weapons so that Russia can continue to operate in Ukraine the way it is, then I would regret that strongly. I don’t think that is appropriate,” he said. 

The UK Navy chief said Russia had last year, under Putin’s leadership, said they wanted to “cease Ukraine’s existence”.  

“I would be clear, China and Russia are entitled to have a relationship but it would be inappropriate of China to enable Putin to act as illegally as he is doing in Ukraine at the moment,” he said.  

Talking about China’s increasing naval presence and capabilities, he said: “We are all obliged to have relations with China. They are a large influential country and the best option is to have an open and honest relationship with them that allows us to understand each other and respect each other”.  

Noting that 70 per cent of the planet is covered by water and a  vast majority of it is open to all people to use, he underlined that the manner in which the high seas and the ocean are used to conduct trade and to build diplomatic relationships is enshrined in a rule set captured in the UN. 

“Providing everybody complies with that, there is no reason why we cannot continue to operate very closely with each other. China has its interest around the world. We would encourage them to do so within a rule set that the whole international community adheres to,” he said.

Also Read: Centre appoints ‘China expert’ Lt Gen Anil Chauhan as new CDS

‘Want to exchange ideas, technology with India’

Talking about India-UK bilateral defence ties, he said there are a number of emerging opportunities.

Electric propulsion systems for the navy and jet engine technology for India’s future fighter projects, he said, are opportunities for the two countries to come together.

Underlining that it is confident of meeting India’s requirement, top British engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce had told ThePrint that it wants to co-develop fighter aircraft engines with India that will power indigenous aircraft such as the fifth-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA).

Key also pointed out logistics support for each other and common training techniques were also some fields where the two countries could come closer.

“We want to genuinely work together for mutual interests and proper partnership. We want to exchange ideas, technology and look at how we can develop a really committed relationship,” he said. 

(Edited by Zinnia Ray Chaudhuri)

Also Read: Chinese are coming for biggest breach in India’s defences. Our politics is far from ready for them


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