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UK not engaging enough with rising India, says key panel

Titled ‘Building Bridges: Reawakening UK-India Ties’, the report says the UK government is failing to make the most of the country’s extensive ties with India, and adds that while the bilateral relationship is strong, it falls short of its potential.

world Updated: Jun 24, 2019 15:24 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Tom Tugendhat,Building Bridges: Reawakening UK-India Ties,UK-India ties
The report focuses on the key issue of migration, stating that there is ‘tension’ between the promotion of a ‘Global Britain’ and steps to cut migration.(Bloomberg file photo)

The United Kingdom is falling behind in the global race to engage with a rising India, and the story of its recent relationship is primarily one of missed opportunities, a key parliamentary panel has said in a major report on India-UK ties.

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons chaired by Conservative MP Tom Tugendhat lists a catalogue of drawbacks on behalf of successive UK governments, which have “failed to give this relationship the attention it deserves”.

Titled ‘Building Bridges: Reawakening UK-India Ties’, the report says the UK government is failing to make the most of the country’s extensive ties with India, and adds that while the bilateral relationship is strong, it falls short of its potential.

“The (UK) Government cannot afford to be complacent or rely on historical connections to deliver a modern partnership. The UK needs to adjust its strategy to India’s enhanced influence and power: we should do more to respond to India’s priorities, and should communicate our own objectives more clearly”, the report says.

Based on written and oral submissions by leading British and Indian individuals engaged in the relationship, the report focuses on the key issue of migration, stating that there is ‘tension’ between the promotion of a ‘Global Britain’ and steps to cut migration.

“While the Global Britain strategy is barely being communicated in India, the ‘hostile environment’ message is being heard loud and clear. It is short-sighted for the Government not to do more to open doors for Indian entrepreneurs, tech workers, tourists and students, who offer clear benefits to the UK and often plan only a short-term stay”, it says.

Calling for ‘urgent review’ of the government’s policies towards Indian students, the committee wants them to be able to stay in the UK after completing studies for two years, a facility that was stopped in 2012 and since then partly led to a major fall in their numbers coming to the UK.

In a strongly-worded passage, the report criticises the Theresa May government’s lack of an apology for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre, and calls for steps to ensure that the past does not act unduly as a constraint on present-day ties.

“There is little excuse for failing to issue an apology for atrocities such as the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. The lack of clarity around the decision is particularly unhelpful. The Government missed an important symbolic opportunity by failing to issue a full apology on the 100th anniversary of the crime, and should rectify this without delay”, the report says.

Releasing the report, Tugendhat said: “India is an essential partner to the UK. Our relationship and the living bridge of people who link our nations will only become more important…Despite opportunities, the UK has failed to give the relationship the attention it deserves”.

“As new powers challenge the structure of global trade and dispute resolution, we cannot miss the opportunity to partner with India. Trade, security, a shared commitment to the rules-based international system - these are all factors in our growing and evolving partnership. The Government needs to make sure the UK is making its support for India clear, reawakening the ties between us and building bridges that are made to last.”

The committee report coincides with a UK-India Week from Monday that includes a series of seminars and sessions featuring individuals closely involved with the bilateral relationship.

Manoj Ladwa, organiser of the week, responded to the report: “These findings come at a crucial point in UK-India relations to warn against complacency and reliance on historic ties”.

“As a new UK Prime Minister gets ready to take on the Brexit challenge, this report raises probing questions and offers sensible advice to the UK Government for seizing the missed opportunities with an increasingly influential India on the world stage”.

“UK-India Week 2019 will no doubt deliberate upon many of the issues flagged by this comprehensive inquiry, not least the need for Britain to prioritise talks with India across sectors and issues and effectively press the reset button to unleash a truly winning partnership”.

The committee report coincides with a UK-India Week being observed from Monday that includes a series of seminars and sessions featuring individuals closely involved with the bilateral relationship.

Manoj Ladwa, organiser of the week, responded to the report: “These findings come at a crucial point in UK-India relations to warn against complacency and reliance on historic ties”.

“As a new UK Prime Minister gets ready to take on the Brexit challenge, this report raises probing questions and offers sensible advice to the UK Government for seizing the missed opportunities with an increasingly influential India on the world stage. UK-India Week 2019 will no doubt deliberate upon many of the issues flagged by this comprehensive inquiry, not least the need for Britain to prioritise talks with India across sectors and issues and effectively press the reset button to unleash a truly winning partnership”.

First Published: Jun 24, 2019 08:01 IST