India needs defence partners not suppliers: Liam Fox - The Times of India Investing in the Eurofighter would give India a relationship with "partners of choice" in global security, says British defence secretary Liam Fox. In an exclusive conversation with TOI, Fox also said that while China is seen as an emerging superpower, the UK was looking closely at how Beijing manages its internal challenges. Excerpts: Q: You have been promoting the Eurofighter in your meetings with the Indian leadership. Why is it a better deal? A: We shouldn't see this as simply an aircraft. It's about buying into a strategic relationship. Britain's approach to these things has been too transactional in recent years. But what we now need to do is think strategically, think about interoperability, about our partners of choice in global security. Start to recognize that India wants partners not suppliers. In terms of the aircraft itself of course, we've just been using it in Libya. That's the first time we have used it in combat. We have been extraordinarily impressed by its capability and availability. India would be building a relationship with four European partners - it would be buying into that in terms of strategic outlook. Especially, when you've got countries like Britain who are very open in terms of their defence market. I mean it gives you a much better chance in terms of a constructive longer term relationship, to technology transfer. France, for instance, has a completely closed defence industrial sector. Q: Will we have to pay a whole lot more for the Typhoon and what do we get for that much more? A: In defence you tend to not get the best for the lowest price. So, if you want a quality product you have to pay a reasonable price. We've chosen Typhoon in the UK because we believe the best serves our interest in the years ahead. We plan to eventually phase out the Tornados and use Typhoons in the multi-role capability. We've also packed in the world's first second generation e-scan radar, the most advanced of its type. Q: India is looking at this deal to also help build its indigenous defence industry. How can you help? A: We shouldn't be looking at this as a simple transaction of a single item. Over time - as India's defence industry develops we will share technologies, we have a genuine partnership. That will take time. We expect to have Typhoons for a long time in the UK. Ultimately, we're looking at two types of fast jets - Joint Strike Fighter and the Typhoon. That would be what the RAF would want in terms of capability. We've just completed a major defence review â€“ of all types of equipment and all the forms available to it. And we decided to phase out Harrier, although it had previously done great service, because it didn't have the future capabilities that we wanted. We will eventually phase out Tornado as Typhoon takes on an even greater multi-role capability. Given what it has shown so far in Libya, looks like we've bet on the right horse. Q: China too has an ambitious defence agenda and capability. Do you look at it as an opportunity or a challenge? A: Both, I think. China is developing a lot of military capability. There is no reason to suspect it's a threat to our security. Indeed, in things like blue water naval capability they have an absolute right internationally to do so. Obviously economically China is still an opportunity. But we always are watching to see how China develops internally. Its response to some of the big challenges it has demographically, and in terms of natural supplies, not least water. Although we often see China as an emerging superpower, it is in many ways, struggling as a developing economy with issues of mass poverty. So I think that with China we have to watch and encourage it to go in the right direction. Q: What's the prognosis in Libya and are you at a stalemate? A: I don't think we can call it a stalemate. When we began, the population of Benghazi were under threat of a humanitarian disaster. The people of Misrata have come under bombardment from the mountains. We've now got a substantial portion of the country free from the regime. We've taken out the command and control capabilities of the regime, we're increasingly taking out their intelligence operations. In other words the things that underpin the Libyan state of Gaddafi. It would end tomorrow if Gaddafi recognizes there is no future for his regime. Q: How does this end? A: It ends with the Libyan people being saved. It's about protecting civilians. The NTC (National Transitional Council) have made it clear that the people would not be saved if Gaddafi was still in office. He must leave office. How much of the regime continues alongside the NTC and whatever transitional government happens is for the Libyan people, not for us. What happens to Gaddafi, whether he goes into exile, into another country to the ICC, these are things for the next government to decide. We mustn't be too prescriptive about it. Q: Will the aerial operations continue until a new government is in place? A: When Gaddafi's forces stop firing on the civilians. It's very simple. But we're still seeing operations mounted against opposition forces. But they are much less capable than they were in doing so. And we will continue to degrade their capabilities as long as it poses a threat and we have the will and capability to do so. The key element will be when the people around Gaddafi recognize that he is no longer worth investing in, because sooner or later, whether it's a week, or a month or more, he will be gone. So getting them to recognize that it's in their best interests, more important for the interests of the Libyan people. Q: You have a withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan too. What kind of a presence will you have there ultimately? A: We have a force of 9500. We're only withdrawing 500 by end of 2012. It's a very modest reduction, taking account of the increasing capability of the Afghan national security forces. If you talk to our commanders who work with them, they will tell you that not only have they increased in number but they say they're very quick learners. Q: What's your position on the reconciliation with the Taliban? A: That's an Afghan government issue. But we have said where there are those willing to reconcile with the Afghan constitution, stick by the norms asked of them. However, there will be those who are irreconcilable and who will be never sign up to a fundamentalist, Islamist movement. They will provide a constant threat to the people of Afghanistan and we will have to deal with them militarily. But I think the growing signs the Afghans themselves want to take on a faster and deeper role in their sovereignty and we should welcome that. I met with NSA and will speak to the defence minister this afternoon. Again this conversation is part of regional security and the point I made this morning is that in the interdependent global economy we no longer have the security silos in different parts of the world. Instability here as we saw in 9/11 can cause destruction in different parts of the world. We have to develop partnerships for regional security looking not five years into the future but 15-20 years ahead. Q: Piracy in the Indian Ocean is a chief concern for Indian security establishment. Did that come up in your conversations? A: We have a conversation on a daily basis on piracy. We've seen an interesting model. We've seen in the response to piracy off the Somalian coast â€“ we've seen NATO, European Union, UN, non-aligned countries because all have a common purpose â€“ protection of the sea lanes on which trade depends. And it was organic. We didn't invent a structure and hoped that the effect would follow. There should be a lesson for that in global security and how we develop strategic partnerships so people can have a flexible response to problems. In the naval arena again joint capability and interoperability are quite important. Q: Is India ready to work on interoperability? A: We're looking at the concept of building a new fighter vessel, called a global combat ship, which we want to have other countries in at the beginning of the project rather than merely making something and selling something. We would like our partners to help us develop something that would suit their interests. So that even though we might have variants of the same basic ship, we would have interoperability. If we have a strategic relationship, we need to have openness. Q: Are you encouraged by India's response? A: I think its something the Indian government will think about. Basically, we're trying to find countries that show an interest in it. We've got a basic design and I hope it's something the Indian government would think about as part of a wider strategic relationship given that it's likely to include a number of other countries. Q: You will be visiting Sri Lanka. What's your message to them? A: I think the government there is at a crossroads. They need to decide whether with the end of LTTE they should now come to terms with that element of their history, assess where mistakes were made, ask questions openly, if there are individuals to he held to account, do it in a transparent way and move into situation where they can become a valued member of the international family of nations. This is a time of choice for them. They have a huge amount potentially to offer, in terms of their development, the role they can play in the region. I want them to become Malaysia not Myanmar. Q: What is your vision for the larger India-UK defence relationship? A: We share a lot of common global security analysis. That's the first - we have a common view of the world. We want to see it outward looking, free trade and that obviously requires a level of protection. Q: Do we see it governed by a single global structure or single global superpower? A: No. We would describe it as multi layered security approaches. Q: Is there a place for India and UK? A: Absolutely. We also have a lot of shared military common experience. We can offer cooperation that will gradually help India's indigenous defence sector develop. Not overnight, but over time. We obviously have, as the world's fourth biggest military budget, quite a lot of expertise. So I think there's a lot for both of us. Q: What would Britain get out of it? A: Britain would get a partner in a region of the world which is quite important for our security and our prosperity. We are no longer a nation that can patrol the world on our own but working with like-minded countries to develop a security strategy over time makes perfect sense. Our relationship of mutual dependence is usually a strong basis for cooperation.