India-UK Free Trade Agreement: Band-Aid or a Band of Democracies

Viewpoint by Manish Uprety F.R.A.S. and Jainendra Karn

Manish Uprety is an ex-diplomat & ALCAP’s Special Adviser for Asia & Africa and Jainendra Karn is a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Any views or opinions expressed are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of IDN-InDepth News.

NEW DELHI (IDN) — Post Magna Carta and the Treaty of Westphalia, international relations between nations are like the sacred marriage vows of Henry VIII or Elizabeth Taylor; and no one knows what the future might unfold. Indo-British relations can also be seen explored in the same light.

The worth of Bengal’s Jagat Seth during the British times and Sree Padmabhaswamy Temple are merely an indicator of the past but as per the British economist Angus Maddison, India had been the richest country in human history. India suffered a tragic twist of fate because of the Islamic invasions and European colonization.

The British left India in 1947, after shelving their original plan to reconsolidate their hold in India by sending over 100,000 European troops post WW-II, and after killing over 1.8 billion Indians, looting $45 trillion, destroying the Indian economy; and continually lying about it.

Lord Northbrook, the Viceroy of India had said: “There is one simple test which we may apply to all Indian questions: let us never forget that it is our duty to govern India, not for our own profit and advantage but for the benefit of the natives of India.”

India attained a Dominion Status through the India Independence Act 1947 that bestows the sovereignty of the country with the British emperor, something the British Parliament has yet to repeal even after India became a republic in 1950.

Post-independence, Britain always shortchanged India and was more tilted towards issues that were detrimental to India’s strategic interests. In the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war which led to creation of Bangladesh, Britain sent the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Eagle to help Pakistan, an Islamic state that Britain had created to serve its own interests.

However the same can be comprehended through the tendency of the West’s Grooming of Radical Islam over the decades.

India’s ex-Ambassador Deepak Vohra mentions that whenever the country needed help, Britain told India to take a walk. It is not a surprise that Britain often joins hands with anti-India Khalistani radicalism thriving on its soil as noted by ex-LSE Prof. Gautam Sen.

Britain’s Labour party has been the primary reason for the country’s anti-India stance. The British MP Bob Blackman had noted that the Labour Party has become anti-Indian.

Labour’s peer Lord Nazir Ahmed of Rotherham who was recently found guilty of sexual assault on children was the favourite of Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI and used the London Kashmir Centre for lobbying with British MPs against India.

The involvement of Britain’s Shadow International Development Secretary and Labour MP Preet Kaur Gill in the recent “Deleted Fake Tweet Scandal” attests to the above. No wonder the British Indian Community has deserted the Labour Party.

Despite sometimes taking lopsided measures such as distancing itself from controversial leaders like Jeremy Corbyn for their deeply ingrained anti-India stance, there is a general acknowledgement of antipathy of the Labour party towards India.

Even the British PM Boris Johnson had to severely chastise the Labour party and its shenanigans over the anti-Modi campaign poster last year.

Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Boris Johnson agreed on the need to curb Anti-India extremists groups while discussing the issue of counter-terrorism alongside the COP 26 Climate Summit in Glasgow.

But a lot needs to be done to strengthen Indo-British relations in the post-BREXIT scenario that is mutually beneficial for both the societies and to create and harness opportunities.

Under Boris Johnson’s majority government, the UK had left the EU on January 31, 2020. PM Johnson was always apprehensive of the set-up and maintains that the EU is punishing Britain over BREXIT.

It is not the Britain of old but only a very pale shadow of its past when the Sun never set on the Empire. Too feeble to project its power and the lack of financial resources and military might have possibly reduced Britain to be a mere witness of global events as a bystander.

Unlike the US, Britain like India cannot afford disengagement from the world. Peter Zeihan predicts an imminent period of international disorder which will leave Britain and the other nations of the globe to fend for themselves in securing access to essential resources, capital, markets and energy commodities.

It is not a surprise that almost a year on from the signing of the UK-EU Trade and Cooperation Agreement, the British economy currently is going through a very frustrating and difficult phase after BREXIT.

Many argue that leaving the EU for Britain was akin to good riddance for good. The country realized that it was paying hard earned British taxpayer’s money to Brussels, as the seat of the EU, in order to achieve nothing.

The ever increasing homelessness in the country which reached a peak just before the COVID pandemic is merely an indicator of the big mess Britain and the EU are in.

Britain being in the EU also compromised the ancient British parliamentary democratic principle of ‘No Taxation without Representation’ which is firmly fixed in British thinking—that is the bedrock of the British Parliament.

Many blame the EU and ex German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and hold her policies of Merkelisation to gradually destabilise and destroy Europe. There is a great risk that Europe might face another war because of the migrants.

It also gives autocrats like Reycep Erdogan of Turkey an opportunity to blackmail the EU whose inability to come up with a robust, clear and consistent refugee policy has put it at the mercy of Turkey’s irresponsible threats.

Even President Assad of Syria noted that Erdogan is blackmailing EU with refugees. It reminds one of the eerie warnings of the UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed’s to the West about far more extremists and terrorists coming out of Europe because of its political correctness and hubris.

It is a very serious problem afflicting not only Britain but the whole world as England’s dying industrial towns have became the West’s largest radicalism factory.

The recent incident of taking Jewish hostages in a Texas Synagogue by Malik Faisal Akram, a British terrorist from Manchester to free Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani national who was arrested in 2008 in Afghanistan in connection with an alleged Al-Qaeda plot, proves the same.

There is also a great risk that EU might implode in the near future. Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki blamed Germany of trying to turn EU into ‘Fourth Reich’ and noted that it is headed towards a type of bureaucratic centralism that needed to be stopped.

Earlier Pope Francis had compared EU to ‘Nazi Dictatorship’ in a row over the Christmas greetings guide.

Not revealing the details of its EU’s contracts with vaccine makers and the German opposition to US and India’s request for a COVID vaccine patents waiver at EU last year show a severe lack of leadership at the organization.

More recently the attempt by Germany to block Estonian arms exports to Ukraine and the immense controversy regarding the resignation of the German Navy chief make one seriously doubt whether Germany can indeed lead Europe or was it actually Germans Sir Humphrey was talking about instead of Britain.

This gives Britain a wonderful opportunity to fill the gap and assume the leadership of Europe when EU fades into oblivion and irrelevance because of Brussels’ lack of the essential quality of democracy.

The world has become a very dangerous place where the leaders have skewed priorities. US author and commentator Jesse Watters mentions “It’s not even safe to ride a subway in New York City, but Joe Biden is laser-focused on safety in the streets of Kiev.”

Besides security concerns, in a post COVID world, nations because of high inflation need to lower the costs and focus on additional ways of increasing revenues to finance expenditure. There is a very high risk of deadly stagflation because of stagnant growth which will increase distress substantially, especially for low-income individuals.

This demands democracies of the world to band together and deep dive to explore the issues in a comprehensive manner rather than going for band-aid like measures and arrangements.

The measures undertaken by Britain to conclude Free Trade Agreements (FTA) is a good move especially with non-EU countries such as with the leading democracies of the world like the US and India therefore matter a lot.

India which had a tryst with democratic and republican values since Vedic ages, is already the second-largest source of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Britain only behind the US while creating thousands of local jobs.

After US and China, India ranks third globally in the start-up ecosystem in terms of the number of unicorns which will soon cross 100. Indians created 33 unicorns in India and 65 in the US and India could add another 45 startup unicorns in the next 12-18 months.

Angus Maddison had forecast that India will be the third largest economy in 2030 after China and the US. In 2030 India would surpass Japan to become Asia’s second largest economy according to London based IHS Markit.

At a time when India is looking to fast-track its FTA negotiations with the EU, Australia, United Arab Emirates, and Canada, Britain must not miss the chance to harness the opportunity despite the Labour party trying its best to throw the spanner in the works.

In 2021, India was Britain’s 15th largest trading partner, and Britain was India’s 18th largest trading partner. What better time than February 2022, the month of Valentine, to sign the FTA between India and Britain which shall unlock immense business opportunities, facilitate the movement of professionals and generate jobs across both sides, with security concerns addressed.

Hope PM Boris Johnson and Secretary Liz Truss pay heed. [IDN-InDepthNews — 26 January 2022]

Photo: From left to Right- Manish Uprety F.R.A.S. and Jainendra Karn

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