The first leg of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s six-day European tour underlines the growing relationship between the two countries, both political and economic. The statistics are impressive: India has emerged as the third largest overseas investor in Britain, which, in turn, is now the third largest investor in the world’s second fastest growing economy, attracting a record $ 14.3 billion in direct investments so far this year. Of the 500-odd Indian companies in London, 30 have listed shares on the London Stock Exchange, greater than the number of Indian companies listed on the NYSE and Nasdaq combined.
The bilateral summit follows an agreement signed in 2004 that envisaged annual meetings between the two countries to take stock of relations. Not surprisingly, terrorism figured prominently in the talks, as Mr Singh and Mr Blair drew attention to the ‘common terror threat’ faced by both countries. The British premier’s criticism of what he called the ‘false comparison’ between North Korea and nuclear powers such as India and Britain is timely. True, North Korea — one of the unstable States in the world — might look at the precedents set by India (and Pakistan), detonating nuclear devices against the wishes of the original five nuclear powers, and hope to be accepted as one in time. But such parallels are ridiculous since India is not only an established democracy that adheres to international regulations, but also a responsible actor on the world stage. In fact, the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal owes, more than anything else, to New Delhi’s credentials as a mature State that can contribute positively to the non-proliferation regime.
The prejudices that define the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty allow any country to pursue the requisite technologies covertly, leaving the world guessing about its nuclear status. Pyongyang proved this. Mr Blair’s remarks, however, show that as the old nuclear order unravels, and a new one takes its place, New Delhi at least will be on its right side this time.