EVENT TRANSCRIPT: India: A Partner for Global Britain?
DATE: 17th February 2021, 3:00pm-4:00pm
SPEAKERS: Dr David Scott, Jyotsna Mehra, Pratik Dattani
EVENT MODERATOR: Gray Sergeant
Gray Sergeant 00:00
Welcome, everybody. Thank you for joining Henry Jackson society’s event here today on UK-India ties in total India, partner for global Britain. I think nowadays you could say that for any event on the UK, India is fairly topical, there always seems to be something happening in the relationship. And as many of you will know, Boris Johnson was originally scheduled last month to go out for India’s National Day as a real big symbolic gesture of value that patient both countries placed on our relationship. But of course, naturally, the Prime Minister has been stuck here in London, dealing with the challenges of COVID. But that hasn’t stopped dialogue and cooperation going ahead. We’ve had less trust in India, the Trade Secretary lost trust in India, this month bigging up trade deals. And I think recently, this week, we had Alok Sharma, who’s heading up the Cop26 conference for the United Kingdom to visit in India as well talking about our partnership with India in tackling climate change. So, there’s a lot going on, and there’s even talk of enhancing defence and security aspects of our relationship as well as the economic and I think it’s very much part of the bigger package of you know, what Britain wants to achieve post Brexit. And it’s the idea of it being a global Britain and tilting towards the Indo-Pacific. And for many of us, specifically here in the UK, we were seeing there as a natural ally in this with shared values and interests. So, I’m delighted to be hosting this event today with people who follow the relationship very, very closely and hopefully can inform us all about the future scope for British-Indian ties. We have David Scott, who has written extensively on in UK-India relations at Britain, more specifically in the in the India in the Indo-Pacific. And he is a member of the Centre for International Maritime Security Studies. We have Pratik Dattani, who is managing director of EPG. consultant, was former UK director of the Federation of India, the Indian Chamber of Commerce, and he currently advises British India, a group that’s based here in the UK that wants to increase ties and understand between people from both countries. And Jyotsna Mehra, who’s a researcher based in New Delhi, who’s done a lot of work on UK in UK-India ties as well and previously studied here in the UK and is a member of the Pacific Forum Young Leaders. So, I think perhaps to kick off our discussion of the threat to David, who perhaps can tell us, what does Britain want from this relationship, in terms of its broader objectives in being a player in the Indo-Pacific?
Dr David Scott 03:13
Greetings, everyone. Hopefully everyone can hear me nice and clearly. The context for the UK is twofold. Since 2014, there has been what has been called a return to an east of Suez in security posture, primarily. This has been overlapping and overlaid since 2020. With a post-Brexit global Britain tilt to the Indo-Pacific, if you put those two things together, then you have a booth, a security related economic related outreach by the UK to India. The other recent event that I think I would mention would be the appointment in 2020. Warm up Alex Ellis, the previous Deputy National Security Advisor here in the UK, who has been just appointed as the UK High Commissioner in India. Heavyweight position perhaps indicating some of the UK hopes in the relationship with India. What the UK is looking for in terms of what it can offer, but also what it hopes to achieve with India is twofold. Firstly, economic second the security-related. If I can throw out a few things with each of these in turn and then come back to some political issues that are remaining between the two-to-two Commonwealth states, in terms of the economics, what is what is Britain hoping to achieve? In many ways, it’s a very simple matter. Post Brexit the UK is actively looking for trade deals, and in particular trade deals across the Indo-Pacific. And also trade deals that do not be the UK dependent on China. During David Cameron’s earlier period in office, the talk was of the Golden Era, golden opportunities in UK-China economic links, I would say with they are over. They over estimated at the time, but certainly the cooling in relations between UK and China has made the attractiveness of other Indo-Pacific trade deals more significant for Britain in this post-Brexit global Britain era. Already the context has been trade agreements reached with South Korea, Japan of particular significance, Singapore, Vietnam, Australia is on the intro in terms of 2021 together with the UK application to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership. In that context, the remaining the remaining big opportunity sought by the UK is a trading agreement with India. India presents potential market size the UK in terms of UK exports from this actively at the moment, as was just mentioned, trade talks are ongoing. Recently, the trade discussions with the respective trade successes took place in February. But there is talk of a threefold, roadmap interim agreement, leading to a trading partnership leading to a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement. All of this though, is still in the future. The rhetoric is positive enough, but it just remains to be seen whether in fact substantial trade agreement can actually be reached. There is a question mark as well and I’ll be interested in the comments from my colleagues over how protectionist in the EU is under the present Modi administration. India’s decision not to enter the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership in a sense of various reasons, but one of them may have been an Indian reluctance to actually open up its markets to outside competition. The thing that the UK is sort of seeking is actual greater investment. India has become a significant investment partner for the UK, UK investments into India but significantly Indian India’s investments into FDI into the UK, as for example, already this decade with Tata, other Indian multinationals. What the UK is hoping to achieve would be an investment treaty but again that’s a question mark. The final economic related issue. So, as I say, I’m a question mark on the free trade agreements and question mark on the investment treaties. One economic related issue that has, in a sense gone away a little bit has been in terms of immigration. The issue of Indian students being opened up in September 2019, and meanwhile, the skilled workers visas regulations coming into play in December a couple of months ago, there’s in a sense opened up the way to greater work for us flows into the UK and has removed a political irritant that was affecting the bilateral relationship. The second area is in a sense of security. There has been a UK maritime return to the Indian Ocean which for India maybe is considered as India’s ocean. But that is another issue. Certainly, interests are pretty compatible. Anti-piracy naval operations in the Gulf of Aden brings the UK and India on the same way. They both of course, talk very strongly about freedom of navigation and of open and secure sea lanes and anti-piracy is one issue there. But there is a convergence on the security level, there is joint exercising quite well established with the compound exercises of significance will be the return of greater UK naval presence in the Indian Ocean. And in particular the UK Carrier Strike Group capacity being deployed into the Indian Ocean later on in the year, this should see significant naval exercises between the UK and India within the Comcast service involving both of the aircraft carriers on which there has been some interesting collaboration in terms of research and the degree of future possible training together. Underneath the security situation is a shared concern over China’s rise and bounce through the Indo-Pacific into the South China Sea across the Indian Ocean, potential challenge to open sea lanes is an issue that both countries have become more concerned about with regard to China. This is not explicitly stated. But nevertheless, in that shared concern is that between the two during the two states in terms of security cooperation, there is potential for security cooperation in terms of bases both the UK and India are involved at (inaudible) could be of interest to India. Meanwhile, India of course, has got the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The reason that I would sort of be mentioning these particular bases is that India has got logistics support agreements with various states which opens up mutual use of bases. A logistics support agreement with the UK will be quite a feasible development and would open up mutual use of all bases in the Indian Ocean. There is also the question of formalising defence cooperation, and in particular, setting up all the defence dialogue structures. These are quite common between various states, there is not one, particularly at that direct military level between two countries. But that is quite feasible to set up. This, though, then, brings us to certain in a sense, political issues in terms of looking at the politics of the situation between two states, though they have similar political shared values to use the phrase in terms a rule-based order, and in terms of freedom of navigation. The interesting thing and the challenge for both countries is how far do they actually implement that? If both countries are talking about the importance of freedom of navigation, and both countries are talking about implicitly and explicitly the challenge that in the South China Sea then how far might there be cooperation between the UK and India, freedom of navigation issues and freedom of navigation operations. I leave that for the politicians to sort out their anti-terrorism in terms of a political issue. The two countries are have got shared interests. jihadist groups, be it an Al Qaeda or ISIS. More recently, the UK co-sponsored, putting the Jaish-e-Mohammed sort of Kashmiri related group on to the global terrorism list of UK which at the UN, which India was quite pleased with. This then raises the issue of intelligence cooperation, which again is a developing area. Human rights though remains a slightly more problematic issue though in some ways. A UK Government particularly under the Labour Party would probably take a more critical attitude over human rights in India over Kashmir. And in fact, terms of the agenda for the Hindu nationalist agenda of the Modi BJP administration, the present Conservative government those not too concerned about those issues, but it remains as a potential return in the future. One issue in particular between the two countries which is complicating cooperation on the security front is the issue of Diego Garcia otherwise known as British Indian Ocean territory, host to the large US military base a joint facility on Diego Garcia, the UK is under pressure to decolonize and handover or return the the islands to Mauritius rising pressure the US India has supported Mauritius and voted against UK on this. This makes the pressure of India using military facilities hosted by the UK on Diego Garcia. A problematic although unofficially there does seem to have been some Indian appearances at Diego Garcia. Officially the final thing in a sense, that I probably throw into the situation, is its asymmetric endures more important to the UK than the UK is to India. They are moderately useful to each other. Britain, the UK is the 14th biggest trading partner for India. India is the 18th trade biggest trading partner for the UK. So, they’re not major. But nevertheless, those useful economic security political cooperation between the three between the two countries operating all three levels and all-round relationship room for further cooperation room for greater economic, greater economic partnership, though I would not overestimate it. I think that’s probably where I’d like to leave it for now. But I’ll be interested to hear the particularly the economics related comments from the province.
Gray Sergeant 21:03
Excellent. Thank you, David. plenty of food for thought lots of issues in the mix lots of interests that the UK certainly has. And I think a wise note you ended on about seeing the asymmetry in the relationship. So that this is what Britain wants. Now, the question is, what does India want and where does India see scope for cooperation? Is it where London sees it, too? I’m sure Pratik will have some thoughts on that. Before we hand over to him. Just to remind you that we have a Q&A box on zoom. And if you start putting in your questions now, the events team here at the Henry Jackson Society will look through them and select a few questions for the Q&A, which will follow. So, without further ado, Pratik, would you like to come back on some what David said,
Pratik Dattani 21:53
Thank you so much. Great. And thank you, David. Thank you, David, for those comments as well. I want to follow on a few of those things. As Greg mentioned earlier that this week Alok Sharma is in Delhi. Right now, this trusty international trade secretary was there last week, and that paves the way for Boris Johnson going to Delhi again later in the year and perhaps the Prime Minister Indian Prime Minister coming to the UK as well. COVID meeting during Boris Johnson’s visit, as with this week’s visit from Alok Sharma, climate cooperation is a huge area of focus. So, in the UK energy collaboration climate collaborations that is not only because there’s the presidency of the Cop26 for the UK right now, but also because India has been a global leader in solar and wind in so many other parts of energy to in terms of the trading investment landscape, on the split this into three. So quite often I think we get we bunch in trading goods, trade and services and investment into the same category. Certainly when politicians talk about it, they do that the story or three is markedly different. So trading goods, as David rightly said, neither countries actually that important to each other. They’re both top 20 trading partners, fought for each other. 20 years ago, the UK was a top 10 trading partner for India. But since then India has grown very significantly. And the relative importance of the UK for India has diminished. Trading Services has a different picture. trading goods is of course easier to capture because the physical objects that go through a border but in trading services. A big factor is again something that we touched on earlier is students. So the UK immigration system has become significantly easier now with new immigration rules for Indian students to come into the UK and state. IT services is one of the big Indian exports and that has been growing significantly as well. And then the third side is the investment side. So investment means not only money pumped into the country, but also jobs that are created to India is one of the largest job creators in Britain and has been for 15 to 17 years. The largest private sector employer in the UK is the Tata group’s. It’s an Indian company across its various companies, between tea and cars and Tata consulting services, etc. But likewise, Indian companies, British companies have been India for a very long time as well, whether that’s the JCB, or McDonald’s or others, and they have contributed to more than a half a million people employed in India as a direct result of British companies and maybe significantly more in the wider supply chain. So the investment relationship is very strong. That investment relationship. I think it’s Also worth adding as a side note is very different from the kind of investment relationship that the US or Singapore, other countries, Japan has been in India. Britain doesn’t invest in the same manner as venture capital firms, private equity firms in other countries do. So I would actually argue that for every pound that British companies invest in India, their job creation potential is significantly lower than a South Korean or Japanese company, or in fact, an American company investing in India. But nevertheless, the headline figures gross figures say that bilateral investment is extremely important. The UK clearly considers India as, as a as a very important country in its post Brexit world, there are more than 800 staff across the various embassies in India. There’s the main embassy in Delhi and separate across the country. That number of stuff is higher than the British government has in China, too. So that that shows that the relative importance the British Council makes about as much money from India as it does from China. And then followed by Pakistan and Nigeria. So British Council in terms of teaching English and other cultural activities. India is a very important country. Press Trust and Pure Oil, when they met a few days ago discussed signing an enhanced trade partnership, as a first step to a wider roadmap for a deeper trade relationship, as David touched on, potentially leading to an FTA. I think there’s a lot of discussion about an FTA investment is turned, I think that’s always a misnomer. It’s not a binary that you either have an FTA and you do trade or you don’t have an FTA and don’t do anything. I remember a few days after the Brexit vote five years ago, there was a trade delegation that came from India to the UK in the first week of July that year. And there was a headline on the front page of financial times from the leader of that delegation to say, an FTA will be very easy to sign. That is, of course nonsense, and I was playing to the gallery. But I think the wider point around the micro improvements in that collaborative relationship, but the incremental kind of improvements. That has certainly been there. On the immigration point, I think, as I mentioned, the new points-based immigration regime will make it much easier for this enhanced trade partnership to develop into something bigger, because Indian workers will find it easier to migrate to the UK. The UK is reluctance to offer preferential treatment to Indian workers has historically been a stumbling block for a wider partnership or free trade deal. In fact, the issue has been problematic as far back as 2007 when the EU is negotiating a free trade agreement with India. And in fact, it was the UK as an EU Member State, which objected and put a brake on negotiations. There were two or three major stumbling blocks into that EU Indian trade agreement, which was access to legal markets in India, insurance market in India, and immigration. All three of those were very much Westminster and sitting in London objections. Last year, for 2019, a Foreign Affairs Select Committee report from UK said that said that ties with India were very important, and I think it quoted it said something like it’s an expensive missed opportunity. Noting the relative production and trade importance with India. I think from an India perspective, from a deli perspective, I think this relationship is a bit more important than it was maybe a year or two ago. Because there is an ongoing jobs crisis in India, unemployment is at historic levels in India. So, the more investment there is from, frankly, wherever there is, is welcome in Delhi. There are a few caveats to that relationship. And before I get into any of these, and I’m sure we’ll discuss some of them in the Q&A. The big caveat I would make is statecraft and diplomacy, which is carrying on unabated and really well is different from some of the optics of the relationship and some of the politics. A few weeks ago, 30 odd Labour MPs wrote a letter to the UK Government criticising the farmer protests have been going on in in North India outside Delhi. The Indian High Commission in London certainly did not like it. The Ministry of External Affairs certainly did not like it. Just a couple of days ago, the high commission wrote an open letter to the Labour MP from Leicester East saying, Look, it’s none of your business to comment on the form of protests. If you want to talk about it, please give us a call. don’t tweet about it. So it doesn’t rank In India in particular when the UK or, frankly anybody else talks about matters that India regards as its own internal affairs, there is an there’s an intellectual inconsistency here because the overseas friends of BJP made a huge deal about fighting for the Conservative Party in some marginal seats in the last UK election, but leaving the intellectual inconsistency aside, I think these are these are small problems. But like I said, I think it’s sometimes has to do more with the optics and the newspapers, rather than what is going on behind the scenes. And as I stopped my comments, I’m sure we’ll come back to some of these things a bit late.
Gray Sergeant 30:47
Thank you, Pratik. And I can already see there’s a couple of interesting questions coming through on the Q&A box. If you could send them through. We can then pick a pick a couple of them, ask them after Jyotsna Mehra, Jyotsna.
Jyotsna Mehra 31:03
Thank you. Thank you, HJS for having me. And I would like to thank my co-panellists for their comments. I think it’s important to appreciate that Republic, the invites in India have for long signalled the direction of Indian foreign policy. So, in recent years, we’ve had the heads of other states, we have President Bolsonaro. We had Sheikh Muhammad bin Zayed, President Obama, you know, because India has been playing a renewed role in the Indo-Pacific, Africa, Latin America. And it’s all the more important when a British Prime Minister gets invited to a ceremony which is associated with India’s colonial history as well. So, of course, we spoke about the momentum that has been built in the last few months towards this relationship. Of course, this renewed attention towards India is driven, as has been iterated before, by the need for the UK to look for perhaps like-minded partners outside the EU, as it carves a fresh role for itself now. But for India, this is perhaps in line with a shift that its foreign policy has been taking in the last few years where India has been playing a more decisive role than before, in strengthening its relations with partners such as the US, Japan, Australia, France. Many have seen India’s foreign policy, especially under this government, as one of many departures. Overcoming historic mysteries that have defined India’s ties with the US embracing the quad partnership more readily. We had Australia invited to the Malabar exercises after a gap of 13 years, but also shift generally in India’s ties towards countries like Israel, Saudi Arabia, UAE. Essentially, this has been seen as a move away from the policy of non-alignment that was very much influenced by a post-colonial worldview of newly independent India in the 1950s. The pioneers of non-alignment in India had in mind India’s history of being a British colony and wanted India to not be a part of any superpower block and pursue an independent foreign policy during the Cold War era. What we have been seeing in recent years is a cautious move away from that binding nature of non-alignment to some something that’s been called multi-alignment, where interest-based alignments not bigger alliances are pursued. Non-alignment had restricted India to the status of a bystander in global affairs back then, something which India can no longer afford to do. I think this is where the rethinking on Britain is also taking place. Prime Minister Modi is credited for making the Commonwealth relevant again in India. There have been recent debates here that that suggested that India should readily embrace its role and place in the Anglosphere as the second largest English-speaking country. The idea would have been very controversial for most of independent India’s history, and people will have drawn attention to the colonial connotations associated with the Anglosphere. But increasingly the policy community here in Delhi is seeing disadvantages of being bogged down by this colonial baggage and working towards larger strategic gains that India could draw from this relationship. Of course, external factors have helped inform the shift in India’s foreign policy. And as has been pointed out, one of the key convergences have been on China post-Brexit Global Britain has seen a real shift in his perceptions towards China, perhaps even a greater room to formulate a more decisive China policy outside the EU. And when it comes to India last year was the worst year for India China relations in over half a century. A 10 month Malian standoff is only now seeing some disengagement. It is being seen as a victory in many quarters in Delhi, that India was able to stand up to Chinese bullying and aggression, much to Beijing surprise. China obviously underestimated Indian resolve to fight back. Many are comparing this to the Doklam standoff a few years ago, we saw the Indian government banning Chinese apps they were huge protests in the middle of the pandemic against China a large boycott China movement and like everywhere else in the world. The pandemic, the wolf warrior diplomacy and China’s PR war only helped mobilise negative sentiments against China. Here in India, we saw these translate into means and pop songs and tweets by Bollywood stars, sort of this mainstreaming of negative sentiments against China. And that, of course, is important for large democracies like India. As people would know here already that India’s ties with the People’s Republic have historically been underlined by mistrust. But 2020 really helps mobilise the negative sentiment against China. And in recent years, much work has been done in New Delhi on giving policy shape to the Indo-Pacific. The Himalaya standoff has caused the me to admit that there has been a serious impact on the bilateral relationship with China, perhaps indicating that India is set to review its China policy and transform it significantly. And I think this is where a more welcoming approach to expanding partnerships with the likes of the UK would come through platforms such as the D-10. m, it has already been talked about the various ways through which the two could enhance the partnership in the Indo-Pacific. Of course, India is looking forward to some sort of iteration of a British vision of the Indo-Pacific. There could be some space for logistics sharing agreement, joint exercises to increase interoperability would be good in the Indian Ocean, perhaps a place in a rural part of the UK as the quad evolves into a quad plus, India has been talking about the Indo-Pacific oceans initiative, where cooperation is centred around areas like maritime security, connectivity, blue economy, something that the two could consider. Along with this, maybe with by partnering with another Commonwealth, middle power, such as Australia, India, and the UK could consider taking infrastructure financing of specific projects along east Africa, Indian Ocean island nations, South Asia, Southeast Asia, because these are the countries which we do know very well. Of course, I bought the country’s there’s also a role to explore in the blue dot network, which is sort of a certification platform for infrastructure projects. So, I think they would also be a role for Britain and to work with India on supply chain resilience. This is something that Japan and Australia are already working with India on as has been pointed out before. Another factor that has helped in the UK in your relationship in the past few years has been the change in the immigration policy to a points-based system something which has been welcomed by Indian students and professionals seeking to emigrate to the UK. And as HJS’ own research points out, Indians do integrate quite well into British society, so as, and generally speaking, are highly skilled. So, this is something which has really received some positive attention here in Delhi. India has stressed on counterterrorism cooperation with the UK, which would include countering violent extremism online, combating financing of terrorism. But this would also include aligning policies on terrorism, international fora, such as the UN and FATF. And as David pointed out, that the UK already placed Jaish e Mohammed under a list. And I think this is where some of the trickier parts of the relationship lie, and some of the baggage of the colonial history because this will mean that you may have to support India’s calls for punishment for Pakistan back is the mystery is carrying out attacks over Kashmir. There have been speculations about whether global Britain is inimical to India, these advices coming from within India’s policy leads diplomatically, it’s who have expressed concern, like was like was pointed out earlier about the repeated debates in the British Parliament about Indian laws passed in India, India has elected the majority government. So, people say that this is of course, our business. And these are laws which have been under discussion for decades, don’t push me or agriculture reforms etc. Of course, these are discussions which are expected to take place in democratic societies such as Britain, but for reasons of India’s history as a former British colony, discussions in the British Parliament about India’s domestic issues are not very well taken by some people here. A senior diplomat now retired, wrote a very scathing piece recently about a recent Chatham House report where India was clubbed with the likes of China, Russia and Saudi Arabia as an awkward partner and potentially even a rival for Britain. And, as was pointed out, that the Johnson government does not share his views and has repeatedly expressed that it is not interested in commenting on India’s domestic issues. However, concerns also remain over the policies sway some separatist groups exercise in Britain. neighbours that huge protests in all, which London outside the High Commission of India, where there were allegations that Kashmiri and California groups assaulted some of the Indians who were present there to celebrate India as a public take. There are concerns that some of these people enjoy substantial leverage over members of parliament who depend on them for a substantial board bank. So how the year evolves in terms of detail Indo-Pacific cooperation and trade, you will tell us more on whether India would look past these concerns and not let them feed into some sort of Britain fatigue. And whether India is able to hyphenate these concerns over shared geopolitical interests in the Indo-Pacific with the UK. On our set quickly, I would like to say that, yes, India said that it is trying to build capacities at home. But I think our SEP decision was more directed at China, because India is trying to reduce its dependence on China significantly. And I will leave it there. Thank you.
Gray Sergeant 42:45
Thank you very much Jyotsna in that interest. Interesting point, you sort of ended on with the point about UK concerns over human rights issues, I think very much values as part of the UK foreign policy for domestic reasons, and also just bizarre history. One of the questions that I had, that perhaps some of the panellists might want to touch on is do what extent do values drive? India– we know it’s a liberal democracy, perhaps slightly different from the UK. But to what extent does that matter to him, for India for his identity abroad? And how much for example, His cooperation with the UK and the US based on these values, or is it more of a hard-headed assessment in terms of his interest? You know, visibly China? We’ve had quite a number of interesting questions long and short. And I’m going to ask a couple of people to ask you read the mount. There’s one anonymous one about India’s role in the five eyes. You know, we’ve heard talk of Japan joining is interested. is India interested in joining, joining, should you join what can bring to the table? I think I’d like to ask Francis Duffield to ask his question, please. Hi, Francis.
Francis Duffield 44:06
Good. Fine. Yes. I think that all of the panellists have touched on my question. But I think that India, as the world’s largest democracy, that to be the world’s most populous country, and with a really serious commitment to democracy, in my view, plays a very, very crucial role in future world order. And I think that it really behooves other liberal democracies of the world to do everything they can help to encourage it to do that. And the key element and that is to develop its economy. Now, the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party has recently adopted a new economic plan, under which they propose to shift from export dependency to domestic consumption. And I think this offers a huge opportunity for India to begin to realise its export potential as a manufacturer. This, of course, is going to require some significant reforms across the board, including in the agricultural sector, putting it simply, agriculture has to be made more efficient. That means jobs in the rural sector have to be last jobs in the manufacturing sector, the need to be created should not the UK and other democracies the US, and particularly the Vice President of the United States, do all they can to help India to realise this potential by encouraging it to pursue the needed internal reforms rather than criticising some of the unavoidable consequences of some of these reforms? And can I just add one other to what extent is Indian government really aware of the potential that is in front of it, and the need to make the most of that, rather than being in danger of getting side-tracked into Hindu nationalistic issues and local domestic issues or difficulties in Kashmir?
Gray Sergeant 46:09
Thank you, Francis. And I short question from John Dobson. Next, John, if you could unmute your microphone.
John Dobson 46:25
Short question, really. I have a column in the Indian Sunday Guardian called The View from Britain. But what effect do the panellists think that a British Prime Minister, the son of the Punjabi Hindu parents would have on the relationship between the two countries?
Gray Sergeant 46:46
Thank you, john. And another short question from Chris. Chris forest. If you can unmute your mic, Chris. I think it’s directed more to Pratik’s remarks.
Chris Forrest 46:57
Thank you. The question I would like to ask is why is pro rata UK investment, producing less jobs and investment from other countries?
Gray Sergeant 47:10
Excellent. Thank you, Chris. Plenty of questions that and if I could follow up with one more anonymous one on the chat, would there be a different approach to UK India relations if the Congress power returned to power after an election? So, with those questions and my questions planted to discuss perhaps if we go back round, you will at that we started. David, would you like to kick off with that and respond to any other comments by our speakers?
Dr David Scott 47:37
Okay. Do let’s take the dimension of the Five Eyes is interesting. And it made the comparison to the point that was mentioned about growing interest or possibly involvement in the Anglosphere. So that that’s an interesting sort of line of development. By the way, I would just like to comment in terms of Pratik in terms of mention of previous EU-India negotiations. Now, the interesting thing there is twofold. Firstly, if the UK is out of the equation now, logically that suggests that an EU-India, free trade agreement would actually be now easier to achieve. policy. India, Free Trade Agreement certainly raises the question for India, which is actually more important, achieving a free trade agreement with the EU, with a free trade agreement with the UK relegated to the second division of importance. rolling back to the questions that were asked most of them are in a sense, sort of internally in terms of what’s happening in India. It’s interesting, though. Certainly a change of Prime Minister and yes, I mean, our chancellor, you know, pretty popular at the moment. Yes, that would be an interesting turn of events. And you know, that is not likely to happen. It’s different political parties were in power. Yes, I think that actually would make some difference. The argument might be that the Congress administration may generate less grounds for political frictions between the UK and India. In that sense, the political diversion as it were the mention of indoor domestic politics, within the sense not being particularly there as much with a congress administration. On the other hand, the Congress administration, may well also be in a sec weaker if you’re looking at term security, and a more robust foreign policy analysis, then in that sense, and as was mentioned earlier, a congress the Congress administration may, in fact, lead to a loosening of some of the news made by the Modi administration in the Indian Pacific with various countries, implicitly China in mind, sort of including the UK. So have a double effect, I think, actually removing some friction areas, but actually weakening cooperation that is starting to develop in other areas. I leave the comments about the impact in India, to my two colleagues.
Pratik Dattani 51:19
David posed a tantalising question about whether EU, India was more likely or UK, India was more likely in terms of free trade agreement. I would love to talk about that just for an hour. But very briefly, to touch on something that was mentioned earlier about human rights. I think one of the one of the things it’s increasingly important to BJP led government in Delhi, the Congress, state government is kind of foreign interference in terms of talking about human rights and democracy internally. And, it’s very noticeable that the Boris Johnson administration has not really commented on farmers protests or the CIA, or abrogation of 370 in Kashmir, whereas in Europe, politicians have commented. So. But obviously, that’s one aspect of several aspects. Going back to some of the other questions, the question around the job creation, potential British investment, I think it’s without getting too much into the numbers. It’s just the type of companies from Britain that invest in India, so from Korea and Japan and faculty from China, you have a lot of manufacturing jobs that are created in India, whereas British investment tends not to be in the manufacturing sector tends to be in the services sector. Whereas manufacturing can kind of create 1000 jobs at one time, where services will grow from zero upwards. So, I think it’s to do with that, which is obviously not a comment on the quality of the investment. It’s just, it’s just how it gets impacted on the ground. There was a there was a question around if a congress government comes back in 2024. That’s really big if with underlines, and capital letters. So, Congress is united in the loosest sense, in its opposition of the current party in power, Congress doesn’t yet know what it stands for. And you can’t necessarily win by just being against something and not being for something. So, I have my views about what could happen in 2024, if there was a congress led coalition of 10 or 15 parties, but there’s a long way to travel between now and then. And, and pragmatically speaking, the BJP earns about 95% of all electoral funding that comes into India through the electoral bonds. So, money talks, there’s very little chance anybody important BJP can win large majorities in India.
Jyotsna Mehra 54:09
I would like to echo that point that the possibility of Congress coming back to power are a quite dim right now. We have to we have to appreciate the point that whatever the BJP is delivering on whether we like it or not, is something that it had promised in its Manifesto. So we might see the BGP stay here for some time when it comes to India’s identities and values. I think on one hand, India likes to project itself as the largest democracy on the planet. You know, every election that happens in India, every general election is always the last election ever to take place in human history. But on the other hand, democracy promotion and forging partners Ships based on democracy is not really that big on India’s foreign policy agenda. So, even when it comes to say the Indo-Pacific India was not very keen on the language of this for examples, rules based liberal order, because India knows that some of its partners like Vietnam or even Singapore might not buy that language either. When it comes to Yeah, what is whatever is going on internally again, I would like to say that India has to work on many things, it’s a very complex country, India has to work on building state capacity in certain areas. And India also has to work on getting rid of some of the colonial era laws on tradition, free speech, etc. Whether a Punjabi Prime Minister would be welcomed by India, of course, we can see that from the exuberance that the appointment of Priti Patel, which is Alok Sharma, it’s due out here. So, yes, of course, if that ever happens, I think that would be welcomed.
Gray Sergeant 56:12
That’s great. Thank you very much. Well, I’m very conscious of time was such a huge subject, you can sort of be left after, after one of these discussions with so many more questions in your mind, but I feel like we’ve illuminated the subject pretty well. interesting to hear Jyotsna’s remarks about how India sees itself in the world and, and the role of values that perhaps, perhaps Asia really doesn’t need to do an event on Indian domestic politics in itself, so we can get our heads around that as well. And that we are likely to have the BJP in for a while. And that might, as David suggests, mean more assertive and more ambitious foreign policy approaches, but nonetheless causes bumps in the road. So, I think that particular is talking about in terms of things that perhaps cause tension here domestically, and get raised in the UK Parliament or by UK, activists and might cause friction, but these things are on the surface, and might attract media attention, but there is a much deeper, more sustained relationship going on. One, ultimately based on shared interests, but economic and security. With that. We’re coming towards the end of our hour. I’d like to thank all of our panellists, for joining us here today. And thank you for attending our event. And we look forward to seeing you at a future event very soon. Thank you. Thank you, everyone.