We should welcome the focus in the integrated review on building comprehensive ties with India on a new template.Departing from the practicing of looking at India in the South Asia context and equating India with Pakistan, the Integrated Review places India in the global context of the Indo-Pacific.
By Arvind Gupta
From our point of view, this is a welcome shift in the UK’s view of India.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is visiting India in April. That is an occasion for reformatting India UK relations and places them on an upward, futuristic trajectory.
Next year, India is celebrating 75 years of its independence from the British rule. The independence came after a long nonviolent, peaceful struggle and sacrifices.
We should acknowledge that the partition of the subcontinent brought untold misery to the subcontinent. No one gave India a chance then. But from that mess, India has emerged as the 3rd largest economy in PPP (Purchasing Power Parity) terms and is now the world’s largest democracy.
The UK could join hands with India to celebrate India’s independence and its emergence.
Areas of Cooperation
Many areas of cooperation have been identified in the Integrated Review, ranging from defence to climate change; from trade and investment to education and public health.
Both India and the UK face similar threats from terrorism and yet sometimes we do not seem to share similar perceptions on what constitutes terrorism and who are terrorists. We need better understanding through formal and informal dialogue mechanisms on terrorism and radicalisation. Thinks tanks can play an important role in improving Mutual comprehension.
Taking a cue from the Integrated Review, both counties should strengthen and improve dialogues on global issues such as nuclear, space, cyber and emerging technologies issues.
Cyber threats are becoming global. Social media, data privacy are the new challenges we have to grapple with; cooperation in cyber security needs to be enhanced. Cooperation among relevant agencies would be most useful. The two countries can also join hands in developing cyber security products, best practices and standards.
We need to have a closer intelligence sharing. The possibility of India joining the 5-eye group should be considered.
India can learn from the UK’s approach to assessing risks and building whole-of-society resilience which the document talks about. The UK has appreciable strengths in this area.
India and UK can cooperate with each other on issue-based alliances with several countries, as for instance, in cyber security, public health, clean energy, capacity building, logistics, intelligence sharing, supply chain resilience, counter terrorism and so on. The India France of cooperation in setting up the International Solar Alliance can be a model.
Address the Irritants
We have a longstanding strong relationship. But it has not been free from irritants.
We recently saw an example when farm protests in India, a purely domestic issue, were discussed in the UK parliament.
The Indian public was also stunned when large scale demonstrations and protests were organised in front of the Indian High Commission by anti-India elements. These were very much in the knowledge of the authorities.
We need a relationship based on trust with due regard to each other’s sensibility.
Our relationship should not be just transactional.
We need to address the structural problems in our relations. We should not allow domestic issues in one country to become the issues in the other country’s foreign policy.
We hope that the India-Pacific ‘tilt’ in the British policy will facilitate the crafting of a mutually beneficial and globally useful relationship based on new realities.
Despite some hiccups, there is a lot going for India and the UK in the backdrop of Brexit and the Indo-Pacific construct. Both sides should take advantage of PM Boris Johnson’s forthcoming visit and build a relationship for the 21st century.
This article first appeared in www.vifindia.org and it belongs to them. The author is a research associate with VIF.