British prime minister David Cameron called for a “stronger, wider and deeper” relationship between India and the United Kingdom in Bangalore on Wednesday. India, Britain’s former crown colony in South Asia and currently one of the fastest growing economies in the world, is important for Britain’s economic future, according to Cameron, and a partnership between the two countries would help to tackle global challenges as climate change and security.
The British delegation led by the prime minister was primarily interested in fostering trade relations however. “India represents an enormous opportunity for British companies,” he declared.
Already our trade relationship is worth £11.5 billion a year. But I want us to go further. India plans to invest $500 billion in infrastructure in the coming years. That is of course good for Indian business, but it is also a chance for British companies to generate growth. Your retail market is growing by 25 per cent annually, and there is no reason why British companies should not be part of that too.
Cameron also referred to India’s troubled relation with neighboring Pakistan, stating, “We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country is allowed to look both ways and is able to promote the export of terror, whether to India or Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world.”
Such words resonate well with India’s leadership, especially while it remains concerned that the United States won’t ever be similarly bold and pick India over Pakistan.
The prime minister’s remark understandably stirred consternation with Pakistani authorities. Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said it was “saddened” while the country’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Wajid Shamsul Hasan wrote in The Guardian that Cameron’s words were “intended to embroil Pakistan in issues for which it cannot alone be held responsible.”
One would have hoped that the British prime minister would have considered Pakistan’s enormous role in the War on Terror and the sacrifices it has made since 9/11. He seems to be more reliant on information based on intelligence leaks, despite it lacking credibility or corroborating proof. A bilateral visit aimed at attracting business could have been conducted without damaging the prospects of regional peace.
Hasan knows better than that. In the wake of 9/11, Pakistan has provided greater support for the war effort in Afghanistan than any NATO ally besides the United States but it has continued to support the Taliban at the same time, hedging its bets, at the cost of civil war. With coalition forces set to pull out of Afghanistan starting next year, Pakistan will only intensify its involvement with the very insurgents whom Western soldiers are still battling across the border. It’s hard to blame Islamabad, considering the chaos it has suffered already, but Cameron is right to profess that it can’t have it both ways.
For Britain to deepen its commitment to India is sound foreign policy — particularly after the debacle caused by former Foreign Minister David Miliband last year who suggested that New Delhi resole the Kashmir dispute once and for all before any meaningful progress could be made in the relationship. Naturally, India didn’t take kindly to that.
Cameron meets with his counterpart Manmohan Singh in New Delhi today.