British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is all for a “partnership of equals” between India and the United Kingdom. Brown, who was on a two-day visit to New Delhi, spoke exclusively to Amit Baruah of the Hindustan Times.
Excerpts from the interview:
In follow-up to your morning speech, what specific changes can be made to the IMF, the World Bank, the G8 and other institutions to reflect post-war realities that you spoke about?
We’ve got a truly global economy, in which India is participating in a very big way. We’ve got a climate change problem that’s got to be dealt with; terrorism, security issues that have not been properly covered at the international level. We’ve got issues about failures of states where there is conflict and we’ve got to have a better system to deal with this.
First of all, countries that are strong and important such as India have to be properly represented in the new order. Secondly, we got to look at the functions and purpose of each institution to see whether it is delivering for these huge sets of challenges that we have got to face. We created new institutions after 1945, but we’ve now got to renew them for the global environmental, security challenges that are quite different from what we faced in 1945. I’d like to see the IMF have an early warning system. To promote crisis-prevention, I’d like to see the World Bank take on the environment. In both cases, it would be to the huge advantage of India and the economy of the developing world. A global new deal has to be established between the richer and the poorer countries.
The Independent newspaper has reported that you are in ‘secret talks’ with other world leaders to allow the expansion of the United Nations Security Council. Is that correct?
There is no secrecy about the proposals that I am putting forward. I’ve made them publicly today in India. I’ve made it very clear that I want to see a reformed Security Council. We’ve also got to look at the function of the UN. You can reform the representation and not reform the function. You would then find you’re no further forward…we’ve got to recognize that one of the purposes of the UN must be, not just to have humanitarian aid (schemes?), which is necessary and should be expanded, and to have peacekeeping. I thank India for its contribution to the peacekeeping forces. But when you are dealing with a broken down state or a conflict zone, you have got to be able to bring not just peace, but bring reconstruction and development so that people have a stake in the future. That’s why I am proposing a standby, rapid response unit which will be civilian and military and I hope India will be involved with a group of other countries to provide the civilian and military support that is necessary to turn fragile, conflict-ridden states into countries that can succeed and stand on their own feet.
On January 14, you pointed out that a million manufacturing jobs and thousands of service jobs had moved out of Europe and America last year. Does that worry you?
I think the long-term changes in the world economy are to the benefit of all countries. We’ve got to then decide where the comparitive advantages of different countries lie. It’s true that a lot of service jobs have moved from Europe and America to Asia and many of them have come to India. But it’s also true that we are moving in Britain, just as you are, into higher value-added jobs, where, for example, in pharmaceuticals, in aerospace or in financial business services, we are able to offer products and services that are competitive around the world. So, the world economy is being restructured and the pace of change is faster than at any time for hundreds of years. The scale of the change is bigger than what happened two hundred years ago at the time of the industrial revolution.
Is talk of an Asian ‘century’ more rhetoric than reality, or are we going to see the shift of economic gravity to this part of the world?
I think it’s the people’s century. This is the century where the skills, talents, ingenuity and creativity of ordinary people would be the driving force of the economy…people themselves, not governments, not regimes, not continents will be the driving force of change.
Will you support India’s case for civilian nuclear cooperation at the Nuclear Suppliers Group?
We’ve got to look round the world at how we can manage nuclear power in the best possible way. Certainly, the safety of civil nuclear plants is very important. The shortage of energy and the instability that arises from being dependent on one or two sources of energy is leading them to take decisions about civil nuclear power.
Specifically, what about India’s case at the NSG?
We’re looking at all those things and we support India’s case at the NSG.
Pakistan today is a far more turbulent country than it was at the time of 9/11 and President Pervez Musharraf is seen as fighting a war for the western world as opposed to a domestic battle against extremism. Is it time for course correction?
Pakistan is about to have elections. They should be free and fair…the international community will be judging how fair that process is. All of us face problems with terrorism, all of us have to find better ways of dealing with terrorism. Terrorism is not confined to one country. We’ve got to step up our ability to persuade young people that extremist ideologies that poison their minds are against the long-term interest of being part of a democracy…
But is the situation in Pakistan more dangerous today then it was a few years ago?
We’re in a new context in that we’re about to have elections. We hope they will be free and fair. There’s been a tragedy overhanging these elections, which is the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and the loss of life which has been completely unacceptable. But, I think, we have to wait and see how the Pakistan elections are conducted. Then I think the international community will make its views known.
You’re not concerned about regime security given that nuclear weapons exist in Pakistan?
We are always concerned about issues that relate to terrorism and security. Our vigilance in these issues will be as any country, something that we will wish to raise with the authorities. We do also know that we need a level of cooperation against terrorist activities; we are trying to bolster that relationship so that Al Qaeda does not get a further foothold in Pakistan and we prevent the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan. These are important issues for the entire world community.
What more can India and the UK do on the issue of terrorism?
I think the cooperation that the Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh) and I talk about on security issues is going to be very important. I know that India and China have talked last week about these security issues. For my part, I would like to see a strengthening of cooperation between security issues. I would like to see India becoming a part of the (OECD-led) Financial Action Task Force; I know they have applied to join. We support their application. It (India joining) will be an important step in dealing with terrorist finances. Then, I would like to see us working together on how we can promote the values of democracy.
There have been issues of people of South Asian origin being involved in acts of terrorism in Britain. How does British society deal with such issues?
I think that any terrorist and any terrorist activity can in no way be condoned and we’ve got to take the most severe action to detect and root out terrorist violence from whatever continent and whatever attempted justification these terrorist acts come.
Your Environment Minister was quite critical of India on the issue of climate change in Beijing. Do you share his views?
India played a very important role in the Bali talks and I have to acknowledge the role played by the Prime Minister and his ministers in making it possible that we are able to negotiate a post-2012 climate change agreement. At the same time, our talks continue on how to create a better international mechanism so that developing countries that want to create alternative sources of energy and find it is costly to do so can have the support from an institution like the World Bank. One of the reasons I want to see this reform of the World Bank and make it a Bank for environment as well as development is I genuinely believe that if we can provide finance for countries to invest in what may be in the long-term cheaper, but in the short-term, more expensive, sources of energy…then we can create more renewable energy, more cuts in carbon emissions and that would be to the benefit of the Indian economy and the Indian people.
Many Indian skilled personnel have expressed fears that they might be deported. Do you have some words of assurance for them?
We welcome the contribution of people who come to our country. But, obviously, we want to deal with the problem of illegal immigration, and our policy is one of managed migration. That’s why we are introducing new rules this year and we’ll have an Australian-style points system that will enable people with skills to contribute to our economy, but it will discourage…those who want to come illegally into the country.
But these people are already there…
The new scheme will make it absolutely clear where people stand…
How do you relax given your busy schedule?
Watching football. I was trying to watch football matches over the week-end and I managed to see part of one last night on television. It’s fascinating to see so many Indians interested in sport and I do congratulate the cricket team; I watched some of that (the Test victory against Australia). You’ve got a brilliant set of cricketers. My congratulations to them.