The latest successors of East India Company in London, after having colonized and looted India have not hidden their objective, "Begging for India's money". British premier David Cameron made no bones about it. "Economic power is shifting - particularly to Asia - so Britain has to work harder than ever before to earn its living in the world. I'm not ashamed to say that's one of the reasons why I am here in India “. That is perhaps what the clerks of the East India company said in the Mogul and other courts in 17 century.
Prime Minister of a fast downsizing economy Cameron brought the largest ever official delegation to India since its independence. But then, Washington has replaced London in its priorities and affection. The visit of Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, for example, enjoyed wall-to-wall media coverage of her five-day visit, while Cameron’s visit was sparingly covered, that too by the usual suspects.
It is more than a decade since a Tory premier visited India. The relations during Labour years were of little interest except that Labour foreign ministers and other leaders with Pakistani and Mirpuri voters to please too often hurt Indian sensitivities, especially in relation to Indo- Pakistan problems and the complex issue of Kashmir. Foreign minister Robin Cook, was particularly unpopular for his frequent pronouncements on Kashmir. Only last year an awkwardly looking and undiplomatic the then foreign minister, David Miliband, hoping to become the next Labour leader had the temerity to suggest on Indian soil that to stop Pakistan terror activities, India should solve the Kashmir problem (initially created by the perfidious Albion). He should have been boycotted and escorted out of India by the ears.
Washington and London find a very receptive Indian Prime Minister in Manmohan Singh, who studied at Oxford on a scholarship and remains ever grateful (when awarded an honorary doctorate in 2005 , MM Singh lauded British colonial era as beneficial, much, rightly, to the chagrin of the opposition Bhartiya Janta Party and others). Praising Cameron for a “distinguished political career” and his “strong personal commitment” to take the India-UK partnership to an even higher level of understanding and purpose, MM Singh said India shared the same vision for a renewed and enhanced partnership between the two countries. Singh continued: “We have agreed on specific initiatives in the areas of economy and trade, science and technology, energy, education, defence, culture and people-to-people contacts.” The two sides decided to constitute an India-UK CEOs Forum and an India-UK Infrastructure Group. “We will work towards doubling our trade in the next five years. Building upon past experience, we have also agreed to launch a new phase of the UK-India Education and Research Initiative,” Singh added.
During his Indian sojourn Cameron kept repeating his Conservative party election manifesto pledge of a "special relationship" (used for relationship with the masters in Washington), while Queen's Elizabeth's policy speech at May's state opening of the British parliament had actually rephrased this to an objective of an "enhanced partnership". Indeed, throughout a recent interview, his foreign minister, William Hague, of coalition partner the Liberal Democrats refrained from referring to the former. So did Vince Cable also of the Liberal Democrats - the junior partner in the current coalition administration in the United Kingdom - and an influential minister for business, innovation and skills. He rather brushed aside the term. "We don't want to trade on that; we want to approach this in a sort of a hardheaded, business-like way."
By chance or otherwise no member of the Gandhi family was slated for a call in the official programme. Cameron’s personal equation with the Gandhis is essential to the success of any new engagement.
The most concrete achievement in Indo-British military ties, was the 700 million pound (Rs 5,200 crore) deal for purchase of an additional 57 Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer Aircraft from British Aerospace Systems (BAE) witnessed by Cameron in Bangalore. This is the second tranche of the purchase by India since 2004 when it had finalized a deal to buy 66 Hawks after 18 years of negotiations. Cameron said he was delighted to witness the signing of the deal in Bangalore where he first arrived. "This is an outstanding example of India-UK defence and industrial partnership. The agreement will bring significant economic benefits to both our countries. It is evidence of our new, commercial foreign policy in action," he added.
Repeating the business deals of Tata’s purchase of Land Rover, Jaguar and Corus in the UK and Vodafone’s record-breaking inward investment in India to buy Hutchison Essar will be more difficult than the banter about cricket and differences over the creation of the most popular T-20 League.
Wrote Sunanda K Datta-Ray in Business Standard, “What Cameron wants — especially after a dramatic fall in Indian imports from Britain — is our burgeoning market. He also seeks a share of India’s defence (the Hawks got the trip off to a flying start) and infrastructure spending. Hence soothing talk of a “special relationship” with Britain the “junior partner”. … But Cameron doesn’t want settlers. He wants expats. Not Swraj Paul’s Caparo but Tata’s Corus and Mittal’s Arcelor. He wants the East India Company process reversed. But could he explain to his hosts how the expansion of Indian enterprises in Britain, or any other foreign country, helps India’s economy?”
On trade, Cameron believes that India could ease up certain restrictions that discourage investments. Companies like Vodafone, which have made big investments in India, are suffering because of a skewed tax regime and which discouraged British investors. The delegation also made a pitch for opening up the retail sector.
On climate, the British PM expected India to take on higher commitments on emission control. It was argued that when the Kyoto protocol was signed a number of countries were still economic laggards. Now these countries have grown and, in aggregate terms, responsible for a large proportion of global emissions.
In spite of historical linkages between India and UK of over 300 years, the two countries signed the first MoU on culture. There are many East India Company Paintings in Britain which they would like to digitize for universal access. Both countries also want to fill gaps in their Persian and library collections. Similarly, India Office Records, 1857 papers, diary of nationalist leaders and viceroys could be shared. A suitable research grant for Indian research students would be established.
UK does not need or wants semi-literate or even qualified Indians like doctors, one met at Heathrow doing cleaning duties or at British surgeries. England and Europe can now get fair colored equally cheap immigrants from impoverished East Europe and the Balkans. This has made historic migration of poor and even qualified personnel from former colonies in Asia and Africa difficult into Fortress Europe Union. So do not expect any relief on immigration of Indians, more so since the EU economies following US-UK neo-liberal economic model are in deep trouble.
As for greater exchanges which Cameron said he wants in a new economic and cultural partnership with India, by his government's order, Indians who travel to the UK regularly for business or cultural reasons must shell out a fee of £610 for a 10-year visa, with the final amount usually higher with other charges. In comparison around £90 are charged for a 10-year visa to the US and around £50 for a multiple-year visa covering most European countries. This fee is disproportionate meant to discourage exactly those regular visitors who would underpin any "economic and cultural" partnership.
Economically, UK must now compete for a slice of Indian business with the Americans, the Europeans and even the Chinese and Japanese. The British hope to use the influence of the two million strong British-Indian community, in ghettos like South Hall, some of whom have done well and also the fact that a number of top Indian companies are now operating in the UK. Every year, Indian students spend some £300m ($465m) in tuition fees at British colleges and universities since many cannot get admission into premier institutions in India, most others being substandard and run by India’s corrupt political elite. A British or any foreign degree still impresses the Indian natives. Then there are British Councils and other temptations to promote British soft diplomacy.
UK has also created Gujarati Barons like Meghnad Desais, an economist with a funny Afro hair style, whom Indian media invites to berate us on Nehru and Indira Gandhi’s policies. He has little idea about history and should advise the British how to get the fast falling economy of his adopted country into some shape .India is full of such non-Indian residents and Indian origin jokers in UK and USA doing down India for personal gains.
Cameron on Pakistan and Kashmir
Whenever British or US leaders come with the aim of selling something or getting some concessions from India, they sweet talk on Kashmir. Recently when the US Military Chief Adm Mullen visited India he even said that US would be with India in case of hostilities with China. (In 1962 after the Chinese invasion, US had wanted a solution of the Kashmir problem first to suit their ally Pakistan). So, expectedly Cameron warned Pakistan against exporting terrorism to India, Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world. "We want to see a strong, stable and democratic Pakistan, but we cannot tolerate in any sense export of terrorism, whether to India, Afghanistan or anywhere in the world," he said at an infotech company in Bangalore where he first went before coming to the capital New Delhi for talks. He also expressed concern over the reported leakage of funds from the multi-billion dollar military aid Britain and the US had given to Pakistan post-9/11 to fight militants on its territory.
"I will apprise Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday in New Delhi on what I had discussed with US President Barack Obama during my recent visit to Washington on the issue because when it comes to protecting innocent people, we cannot overlook what is happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan," Cameron added. Cameron continued that groups like the Taliban, the Haqqani network or Lashkar-e-Taiba should not be allowed to launch attacks on Indian or British citizens in India or Britain.
"Your relations with these countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) are a matter for you (India) and you alone. But like you, we are determined not to allow the terror groups to attack our people, whether soldiers or civilians from both our countries who are working in Afghanistan," Cameron asserted.
There was swift response from Pakistan and UK’s opposition Labour party’s wannabe aspiring leader , the skewed Milliband.
Pakistan fielded its High Commissioner in London, Wajid Shamsul Hasan. Writing in the Guardian, he said: "One would have wished that the prime minister would have considered Pakistan's enormous role in the war on terror and the sacrifices it has rendered since 9/11.
"There seems to be more reliance on information based on intelligence leaks which lack credibility of proof. A bilateral visit aimed at earning business could have been done without damaging the prospects of regional peace." Later, Hasan told the BBC that he hoped Mr. Cameron's comments were a "slip of the tongue" and "not a meant by him". "He is new in government, maybe he will learn soon and he will know how to handle things," said the high commissioner.
"I hope he will make amends and he will pacify the people of Pakistan as well as the government of Pakistan because it has been taken here very adversely, people are really hurt."
Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit dismissed the claims as "crude, self-serving and unverifiable" and said Cameron should not use them as a basis for his analysis of the situation, adding: "There is no question of Pakistan looking the other way." Pakistani senator Khurshid Ahmad, vice-president of the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami Party, warned that Cameron's remarks risked fuelling "anti-American, anti-West" feeling on the streets, in an interview with BBC Radio 4's,The World at One.
And Shadow foreign minister Miliband ( he certainly casts a long evil shadow on Indo-UK relations) said the prime minister needed to think "through carefully what he is going to say" on such occasions. While Britain must speak with "conviction" on important issues, he said Mr. Cameron had only told "half the story" and "failed to recognize" Pakistan had lost thousands of its own citizens, including former leader Benazir Bhutto, to terrorist attacks. "There is a fine line between a straight talker and a loud mouth," he told the BBC.
Nor even the marines will believe that UK/US and Pakistan are not responsible for the foundations and ills of terrorism in south west Asia and the Middle East since end 1970s , which is now boom-ranging on Pakistan with collateral damage on India perpetrated by Pakistan’s ISI as a state policy. UK’s intelligence chief during Tony Blair’s regime told the Chilcot enquiry, another British pointless drama that following the illegal invasion on Iraq, terror related activities among British Muslims increased and the government doubled the budget for countering it. Blair remains in a state of denial.
So what is the value or weight, if any, of Cameron’s utterances! The whole sordid Western and Pak lies have been unveiled by the Wikileaks now.
Cameron arrived in India from Turkey where he pledged to help Ankara’s EU entry bid. Both UK and UK routinely support Ankara, knowing that entry is unlikely to fructify with staunch opposition from Greece ,France and Germany ,with the ruling Party in Turkey using it to keep the military out of decision making apparatus .Turks are no longer eager to join EU and are looking eastwards for closer leadership relations with former Ottoman provinces.
Cameron last visited India in 2006, in his first year as the leader of the opposition.