The UK wants better relations with India, But does India care?text_fields
What are the positives in terms of Anglo-Indian relations? The United Kingdom is a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Many believe that this inequitable power structure is unreflective of contemporary geopolitical realities. It has been British policy for ten years that India be granted permanent membership of the UNSC. The four other UNSC are not keen on diluting their status by granting UNSC membership permanency to another nation-state. In fact, Beijing is adamantine in this opposition.
As China and India spar, there is no doubt that the United Kingdom takes the side of its erstwhile nursling. The UK rightly perceives the People's Republic of China's malignity and mala fides for what it is. London has been imbecilic enough to sell much of its communications network to Huawei. Like most major Chinese corporations, Huawei is an adjunct of the totalitarian state. It is almost as though the UK wants to be spied on and to jeopardise its communications. Over a million Muslims are incarcerated in China without trial or even charged for the crime of being Muslim and of ethnic minority. Beijing's Big Lie for years is that no such labour camps existed.
The Republic of India is regarded as an arsenal of democracy and a vital counterweight to Cathay. The Chinese juggernaut could easily crush the life out of liberty in all its neighbours. Beijing has aligned itself with the most pernicious forces in the world. Whether it is North Korea's dystopian dictatorship, the genocidal regime in Sudan or Pakistan's antediluvian maniacal deep state: China is their armourer and paymaster.
There is a significant British Indian community. British citizens of Indian stock are only 5% of the UK population. They are mainly concentrated in the conurbations of London, Birmingham and Manchester
The British Indian community is increasingly affluent and self-assured of its place in the UK. Many children of the community are the fourth generation born on Britain's shores. They are on average richer than white Britons and very prominent in medicine and accountancy.
Below the PM in the UK, there are three great offices of state. These are: the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister) is Rishi Sunak; the Home Secretary (i.e. Home Minister) who is Priti Patel and Foreign Secretary (who is a white female). The two Hindus who hold these lofty offices are of course of Indian blood. Ms Patel exemplifies a growing trend among British Indians. She de-emphasises her Indian heritage.
I was at Oxford with Sunak. He was awarded a double first-class degree and wasted no time in making millions of dollars in banking. Sunak is married to the daughter of an Indian US Dollars billionaire. Sunak is MP for a constituency that is 99% white. They call him the Maharajah of Yorkshire because his constituency is in that northern English county.
Her Majesty's Government has been hoping that the British Indian community will act as a bridge between the UK and the Subcontinent. However, there is little chance of this happening. India does not allow dual citizenship. Most countries do permit it. There are plenty of dual citizens of Pakistan and the UK for instance.
Despite the rosy news, there are some thorny issues in relations between New Delhi and London. In recent years there have been ever louder calls for the United Kingdom to pay asythment for the colonial era. People have been calling to mind the Jallianwala Bagh atrocity ever more often.
There have been several state visits between the UK and India. This is the highest expression of amity between nations. These only go ahead when there are no issues to be resolved. Some Britishers are miffed that such visits should have been taking place and decades later India demands an apology and reparatory payments.
Many in India and beyond have called for the UK to formally apologise for felonies committed during the centuries of the British Empire. In 2006 the UK Government publicly apologised for slavery. But this atonement was insufficient for many. The question is to what extent, if any, are the wrongs of yore compensable centuries after their commission? The Britannic Raj is, however, well within living memory. It is right that Britons acknowledge the painful and unedifying truth that several large-scale massacres were perpetrated by Britons and their Indian allies over the centuries.
There are many in the UK who are sympathetic to calls for the British to pay reparations for crimes committed by the British Empire. Labour Party MPs are often so minded. The teaching profession is overwhelmingly left-wing as is the British academe. Leftists have denounced previous imperialist discourse as miseducation. British children are increasingly indoctrinated into believing that the British Empire was an unmitigated evil and that the UK ought to make major efforts to right the wrongs wrought.
The current British Government is made of the Conservative Party. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was formerly married to a half Indian woman with whom he has four children. The Conservatives are less inclined to issue a formal apology for imperialism and much less to disburse public funds in recompense for crimes committed long ago.
Some Britons note that the UK paid many billions of pounds in aid to India for decades. It is no longer needed since India is so rich it has its own aid program for less developed nations. Could the money provided by the UK Government, British charities and the unpaid work of British aid workers in former times not count as reparations?
Surely the solution is for the UK Government to set up a bank account for the purposes of reparations. People and entities who wish to donate can do so. The funds will then be disbursed to needy persons in former colonies.
Whether an apology or reparations is right or wrong, these might ameliorate relations. Some Indians have called for the restitution of the Koh-i- Noor and other treasures that Indian princelings handed over to Britishers pursuant to peace treaties. These priceless artefacts were reparations too in their time.
Belgium does more trade with India than the UK does. That is a major indictment of the United Kingdom.
Everyone knows that India is gaining strength and the UK is stagnating. The UK is of diminishing concern to India. The United Kingdom needs to strive to stay relevant to India. India may conclude that Britain has little to offer.
(The author is an Irish and British citizen educated at Oxford University, London University and the London School of Journalism. He is a political analyst who has written widely for many magazines including Duran)