UK likely to appoint first female high commissioner to India

London: Former chief of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, Lindy Cameron, is tipped to become the country’s new high commissioner to India. Should her appointment be confirmed, Cameron will be the first woman to serve as the British high commissioner in New Delhi.

Alex Ellis, who served as high commissioner until this month, will move on to Spain for his next posting. In the interim, senior diplomat Christina Scott is currently serving as acting high commissioner.

Cameron has previously held numerous positions within the UK’s international development department, including as director general for country programmes. An Oxford graduate, Cameron has also served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In recent years, a number of senior women diplomats have come to hold Britain’s top diplomatic positions abroad. These include envoys to Washington, Beijing, Paris, Tokyo and Berlin.

The British High Commission did not provide a formal comment in response to Mint’s query.

Cameron’s appointment is expected at a time of growing closeness in the India-UK relationship.

“Total trade in goods and services (exports plus imports) between the UK and India was £38.1 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q3 2023, an increase of 8.7% or £3.0 billion in current prices from the four quarters to the end of Q3 2022,” reported the UK’s department for business and trade.

India is now the UK’s 12th largest trade partner. India and the UK are also negotiating a free trade agreement that could be signed this year.

The two countries are also working to strengthen their partnership on defence. During Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh’s visit to London earlier this year, the two sides opened up new possibilities on security. British defence minister Grant Shapps announced plans to send the country’s Littoral Response Group to the Indian Ocean and its Carrier Strike Group in 2025.

London also launched a bespoke office focused on India to improve defence collaboration. Despite the fact that Britain was a major defence supplier to India in the early wars after Independence in 1947, the relationship weakened as the Soviet Union became India’s preferred defence partner.

As New Delhi moves to diversify its defence purchases, Britain has thus far not featured as a key supplier in recent years. With an eye on the future, New Delhi and London agreed to sign a letter of arrangement that will boost research and development on next-generation defence capabilities.

India and the UK will also look to solidify an agreement on logistics support that is expected to make joint operations and exercises between the armed forces of the two countries easier.