Sets its Sights on "Partnership" with India
Following the visit of Bill Clinton to the Indian
sub-continent at the end of March, the Labour government has sent Foreign
Secretary Robin Cook to follow in his footsteps.
Robin Cook stated that the starting point of his visit
"is that India is set to be a 21st century power". He said that an
Indo-British partnership would be one based on modern economics, community,
cultural and development ties. Robin Cook had bilateral talks with the Indian
Foreign Minister, Jaswant Singh. They established an "Indo/British Round
Table", inaugurated on Tuesday by the two foreign ministers, and, in the
words of Jaswant Singh, "a non-government forum composed of distinguished
men and women from the two countries who will suggest ways and means for
reinvigorating our historic bilateral relations".
Whereas, the Clinton visit was said to establish the US and
India as "partners in peace," with "a common interest in and
complementary responsibility for ensuring regional and international
security", with the visit of Robin Cook, Britain and India are said to be
"natural partners for the 21st century".
It is clear that both these visits have been taking place in
the context both of the aim of the US to dominate Asia, as part of its drive to
establish a unipolar world under its hegemony, and of the aim of Britain to
become "great" again and become strong in the world, especially by
renewing its old colonial ties, as well as by becoming the leading player in
However, both the US and Britain are having to recognise in
the pursuit of their aims the new realities in Asia, and to put in place
suitable arrangements taking this into account at the commencement of the 21st
century. India's emerging major role cannot be ignored, especially as regards
its size, its population, and its expertise as regards the
"knowledge-based economy", as well as its geopolitical role within
the Asian powers as a whole.
In this connection, Robin Cook pointed out on Monday that
India's economy "is on track to join the world's top 10 early in this
century and its influence will put it at all top tables in the international
community". In the press conference given by the two foreign ministers,
Robin Cook also backed India for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council,
saying that "Britain sees India as a natural contender for permanent
membership of the Security Council".
Commentators have pointed out that, much like the US,
Britain is now seeking to engage India in a spirit distinctly different from
May 1998, referring to the time when its nuclear tests became a hotly contested
issue. They have also drawn attention to the fact that Britain has found less
and less reason to remain indifferent to India, especially when US imperialism
has appeared extremely keen to engage India.
In this vein, Robin Cook at the press conference said that
although Britain and India have what he referred to as "much shared
history from the centuries of the past" in other words, a bloody
history in which India was the "jewel in the crown" of the British
Empire, and was bequeathed an onerous legacy in terms of British colonial
values and institutions nevertheless, the future was one of
"partnership", "based on our modern ties, a modern partnership
between two modernising countries". He pointed out that Britain is the
largest foreign investor in India, and that Britain is one of Indias
largest trading partners. This was the issue of "economic ties". Then
there are the "community ties", and Robin Cook referred to the
millions of "Britons of Indian descent" which are a "pillar of
our economy in Britain". Thirdly, the "cultural ties", where
"Britain is host to thousands of Indian students and we aim to rapidly
expand their numbers over the next five years". Finally, he referred to
what he called "our development ties". He said, "Britains
largest development programme in the world is here in India, over the next
three years we plan to increase it even more from £100 million per year to
£150 million per year".
It can be said that these arrangements which Robin Cook is
now working to put in place with India are not simply a recognition that India
is becoming a major player, and that "partnership" rather than
colonial domination is now the name of the game. They are also part of the
arrangements which the big powers are establishing, consistent with the
reactionary programme of the "Third Way" under which they are
pursuing the anti-social offensive and globalisation in the
circumstances where the bi-polar division of the world has collapsed and new
equilibriums need to be established by them.
In this regard, it could be counted as significant
and could well be more than a coincidence that while Robin Cook was in
India, Russian President-Elect Putin was in Britain. To pursue its
"enlightened self-interest" in Asia, Britain must ensure its
relationship with both these enormous states, and as appropriate play one off
against the other.
It should also be mentioned that on the question of Kashmir,
of "terrorism", of "nuclear non-proliferation", the Foreign
Secretary followed closely the positions adopted by Bill Clinton on his visit,
which was in a nutshell to support the Indian positions on these questions.
What is also common to the programme being pursued by the
Labour government, as well as Clinton, is that the movement of the people for a
new world, for a new society where their concerns are put at the centre, is
completely erased from the equation.