Year 2000 No.73, April 19, 2000

Labour Government Sets its Sights on "Partnership" with India

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Labour Government Sets its Sights on "Partnership" with India

China Gives Donation to Ethiopia for Drought

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Labour Government 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 Europe.

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 India’s 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, "Britain’s 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.

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China Gives Donation to Ethiopia for Drought

According to the Xinhua news agency, Beijing, on Monday, April 17, China gave a donation amounting to 200,000 US dollars to Ethiopia in support of the country’s efforts to save millions of people facing starvation due to prolonged drought.

Chinese ambassador to Ethiopia Jiang Zhenyun presented a cheque to Simon Michele, chief of the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC) of the Federal Republic of Ethiopia.

Jiang said that the Chinese government and people, who have been in traditional good relations with their Ethiopian counterparts, have shown great concern over the drought-stricken people in Ethiopia. The Chinese government, Jiang said, appreciates the Ethiopian government’s utmost efforts to help the famine victims and measures taken to curb the natural disasters. The ambassador emphasised that the donation reflects the goodwill of the Chinese people towards the Ethiopian people.

Simon Michele said that the people of Ethiopia treasure the friendship with the Chinese people. Although the latest donation by China is not big, it has come at the right time and will be very helpful to Ethiopia’s current relief work. He said that the donation made by the Chinese government clearly demonstrates China’s concern over the plight of drought afflicted Ethiopians.

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