Sunday, August 1, 2010

British Premier Cameron’s Visit to India-Much Ado About Nothing

British Premier Cameron's Visit to India-Much Ado About Nothing

The latest successors of East India Company in London, after having colonized and looted India have not hidden their objective,"Begging for India's money". British premier David Cameron made no bones about it. "Economic power is shifting - particularly to Asia - so Britain has to work harder than ever before to earn its living in the world. I'm not ashamed to say that's one of the reasons why I am here in India ".That is perhaps what the clerks of the East India company said in the Mogul and other courts in 17 century.

Prime Minister of a fast downsizing economy Cameron brought the largest ever official delegation to India since its independence .But then, Washington has replaced London in its priorities and affection . The visit of Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, for example ,enjoyed wall-to-wall media coverage of her five-day visit, while Cameron's visit was sparingly covered ,that too by the usual suspects.

It is more than a decade since a Tory premier visited India. The relations during Labour years were  of little interest except that Labour foreign ministers and other leaders with Pakistani and Mirpuri voters to please too often hurt Indian sensitivities, especially in relation to Indo- Pakistan problems and the complex issue of Kashmir. Foreign minister Robin Cook, was particularly unpopular for his frequent pronouncements on Kashmir .Only last year an awkwardly looking and undiplomatic the then foreign minister  , David Miliband, hoping to become the next Labour leader had the temerity to suggest on Indian soil that to stop Pakistan terror activities ,India should solve the Kashmir problem ( initially created by the perfidious Albion). He should have been boycotted and escorted out of India by the ears.

Washington and London find a very receptive Indian Prime Minister in Manmohan Singh, who studied at Oxford on a scholarship and remains ever grateful ( when awarded a honorary doctorate in 2005 ,MM Singh lauded British colonial era as beneficial , much , rightly, to the chagrin of the opposition Bhartiya Janta Party and others ). Praising Cameron for a "distinguished political career" and his "strong personal commitment" to take the India-UK partnership to an even higher level of understanding and purpose, MM Singh said India shared the same vision for a renewed and enhanced partnership between the two countries. Singh continued: "We have agreed on specific initiatives in the areas of economy and trade, science and technology, energy, education, defence, culture and people-to-people contacts." The two sides decided to constitute an India-UK CEOs Forum and an India-UK Infrastructure Group. "We will work towards doubling our trade in the next five years. Building upon past experience, we have also agreed to launch a new phase of the UK-India Education and Research Initiative," Singh added.

During his Indian sojourn Cameron kept repeating his Conservative party election manifesto pledge of a "special relationship" ( used for relationship with the masters in Washington) , while Queen's Elizabeth's policy speech at May's state opening of the British parliament had actually rephrased this to an objective of an "enhanced partnership". Indeed, throughout a recent interview, his foreign minister, William Hague, of coalition partner the Liberal Democrats refrained from referring to the former. So did Vince Cable also of the Liberal Democrats - the junior partner in the current coalition administration in the United Kingdom - and an influential minister for business, innovation and skills .He rather brushed aside the term."We don't want to trade on that; we want to approach this in a sort of a hardheaded, business-like way."

By chance or otherwise no member of the Gandhi family was slated for a call in the official programme. Cameron's personal equation with the Gandhis is essential to the success of any new engagement.

The most concrete achievement in Indo-British military ties, was the 700 million pound (Rs 5,200 crore) deal for purchase of an additional 57 Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer Aircraft from British Aerospace Systems (BAE) witnessed by Cameron in Bangalore .This is the second tranche of the purchase by India since 2004 when it had finalised a deal to buy 66 Hawks after 18 years of negotiations. Cameron said he was delighted to witness the signing of the deal in Bangalore where he first arrived  . "This is an outstanding example of India-UK defence and industrial partnership. The agreement will bring significant economic benefits to both our countries. It is evidence of our new, commercial foreign policy in action," he added.

Repeating the business deals of Tata's purchase of Land Rover, Jaguar and Corus in the UK and Vodafone's record-breaking inward investment in India to buy Hutchison Essar will be more difficult than the banter about cricket and differences over the creation of the most popular T-20 League.


Wrote Sunanda K Datta-Ray in Business Standard ,"What Cameron wants — especially after a dramatic fall in Indian imports from Britain — is our burgeoning market. He also seeks a share of India's defence (the Hawks got the trip off to a flying start) and infrastructure spending. Hence soothing talk of a "special relationship" with Britain the "junior partner". ---But Cameron doesn't want settlers. He wants expats. Not Swraj Paul's Caparo but Tata's Corus and Mittal's Arcelor. He wants the East India Company process reversed. But could he explain to his hosts how the expansion of Indian enterprises in Britain, or any other foreign country, helps India's economy?"


On trade, Cameron believes that India could ease up certain restrictions that discourage investments. Companies like Vodafone, which have made big investments in India, are suffering because of a skewed tax regime and which discouraged British investors. The delegation also made a pitch for opening up the retail sector.

On climate, the British PM expected India to take on higher commitments on emission control .It was argued that when the Kyoto protocol was signed a number of countries were still economic laggards. Now these countries have grown and, in aggregate terms, responsible for a large proportion of global emissions.

In spite of historical linkages between India and UK of over 300 years, the two countries signed the first MoU on culture . There are many East India Company Paintings in Britain which they would like to digitise for universal access . Both countries also want to fill gaps in their Persian and library collections. Similarly, India Office Records, 1857 papers, diary of nationalist leaders and viceroys could be shared. A suitable research grant for Indian research students would be established.


UK does not need or wants semi-literate or even qualified Indians like doctors , one met at Heathrow doing cleaning duties or at British surgeries .England and Europe can now get fair colored equally cheap immigrants from impoverished East Europe and the Balkans .This has made historic  migration of poor and even qualified personnel from former colonies in Asia and Africa difficult into Fortress Europe Union. So do not expect any relief on immigration of Indians , more so since the EU economies following US-UK neo-liberal economic model are in deep trouble.

As for greater exchanges which Cameron said he wants in a new economic and cultural partnership with India , by his government's order, Indians who travel to the UK regularly for business or cultural reasons must shell out a fee of £610 for a 10-year visa, with the final amount usually higher with other charges. In comparison around £90 are charged for a 10-year visa to the US and around £50 for a multiple-year visa covering most European countries. This fee is disproportionate meant to discourage exactly those regular visitors who would underpin any "economic and cultural" partnership.

Economically, UK must now compete for a slice of Indian business with the Americans, the Europeans and even the Chinese and Japanese. The British hope to use the influence of the two million strong British-Indian community , in ghettos like South Hall , some of whom have done well and also the fact that a number of top Indian companies are now operating in the UK. Every year, Indian students spend some £300m ($465m) in tuition fees at British colleges and universities since many cannot get admission into premier institutions in India , most others being substandard and run by India's corrupt political elite .A British or any foreign degree still impresses the Indian natives . Then there are British Councils and other temptations to promote British soft diplomacy.

UK has also created Gujarati Barons like Meghnad Desais ,an economist with a funny Afro hair style, whom Indian media invites to berate us on Nehru and Indira Gandhi's policies .He has little idea about history and should advise the British how to get the fast falling economy of his adopted country into some shape .India is full of such non-Indian residents and Indian origin jokers in UK and USA doing down India for personal gains .

Cameron on Pakistan and Kashmir


Whenever British or US leaders come with the aim of selling something or getting some concessions from India ,they sweet talk on Kashmir .Recently when the US Military Chief Adm Mullen visited India he even said that US would be with India in case of hostilities with China .( In 1962 after the Chinese invasion US and US had wanted a solution of the Kashmir problem first to suit their ally Pakistan). So, expectedly Cameron warned Pakistan against exporting terrorism to India, Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world. "We want to see a strong, stable and democratic Pakistan, but we cannot tolerate in any sense export of terrorism, whether to India, Afghanistan or anywhere in the world," he said at an infotech company in Bangalore where he first went before coming to the capital New Delhi for talks .He also expressed concern over the reported leakage of funds from the multi-billion dollar military aid Britain and the US had given to Pakistan post-9/11 to fight militants on its territory.

"I will apprise Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday in New Delhi on what I had discussed with US President Barack Obama during my recent visit to Washington on the issue because when it comes to protecting innocent people, we cannot overlook what is happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan," Cameron added. Cameron continued that groups like the Taliban, the Haqqani network or Lashkar-e-Taiba should not be allowed to launch attacks on Indian or British citizens in India or Britain.

"Your relations with these countries (Afghanistan and Pakistan) are a matter for you (India) and you alone. But like you, we are determined not to allow the terror groups to attack our people, whether soldiers or civilians from both our countries who are working in Afghanistan," Cameron asserted.

There was swift response from Pakistan and UK's opposition Labour party's wannabe aspiring leader , the skewed Milliband .

Pakistan fielded its High Commissioner in London , Wajid Shamsul Hasan. Writing in the Guardian, he said: "One would have wished that the prime minister would have considered Pakistan's enormous role in the war on terror and the sacrifices it has rendered since 9/11.

"There seems to be more reliance on information based on intelligence leaks which lack credibility of proof. A bilateral visit aimed at earning business could have been done without damaging the prospects of regional peace." Later, Hasan told the BBC that he hoped Mr Cameron's comments were a "slip of the tongue" and "not a meant by him"."He is new in government, maybe he will learn soon and he will know how to handle things," said the high commissioner.

"I hope he will make amends and he will pacify the people of Pakistan as well as the government of Pakistan because it has been taken here very adversely, people are really hurt."

Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit dismissed the claims as "crude, self-serving and unverifiable" and said Cameron should not use them as a basis for his analysis of the situation, adding: "There is no question of Pakistan looking the other way." Pakistani senator Khurshid Ahmad, vice-president of the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami Party, warned that Cameron's remarks risked fuelling "anti-American, anti-West" feeling on the streets, in an interview with BBC Radio 4's ,The World at One.

And Shadow foreign minister Miliband ( he certainly casts a long evil shadow on Indo-UK relations) said the prime minister needed to think "through carefully what he is going to say" on such occasions. While Britain must speak with "conviction" on important issues, he said Mr Cameron had only told "half the story" and "failed to recognise" Pakistan had lost thousands of its own citizens, including former leader Benazir Bhutto, to terrorist attacks."There is a fine line between a straight talker and a loud mouth," he told the BBC.

Nor even the marines will believe that UK/US and Pakistan are not responsible for the foundations and ills of terrorism in south west Asia and the Middle East since end 1970s , which is now boomranging on Pakistan with collateral damage on India perpetrated by Pakistan's ISI as a state policy. UK's intelligence chief during Tony Blair's regime told the Chilcot enquiry, another British pointless drama that following the illegal invasion on Iraq, terror related activities among British Muslims increased and the government doubled the budget for countering it. Blair remains in a state of denial.

So what is the value or weight ,if any ,of Cameron's utterances !The whole sordid Western and Pak lies have been unveiled by the Wikileaks now.

Cameron arrived in India from Turkey where he pledged to help Ankara's EU entry bid. Both UK and UK routinely support Ankara, knowing that entry is unlikely to fructify with staunch opposition from Greece ,France and Germany ,with the ruling Party in Turkey using it to keep the military out of decision making apparatus .Turks are no longer eager to join EU and are looking eastwards for closer leadership relations with former Ottoman provinces.

Cameron last visited India in 2006, in his first year as the leader of the opposition.


Reinventing the Raj

Writing on the Oped page of the subservient Indian Express C.Raja Mohan , a former leftist sold out to neo-liberalism ,exhorts that an emerging India has everything to gain by deepening its British and Anglo-Saxon connections, with Cameron being just the right interlocutor for India.

That security vision in turn must have two elements. -- the emphasis must be on returning India and Britain to the Raj tradition of keeping the global commons secure and open for all. This would involve India and Britain pooling their resources to keep open the sea lines of communication in the Indian Ocean and beyond. -- As Britain cuts its military expenditure, downsizes its armed forces and limits its political objectives amidst a big resource crunch at home, India should take the opportunity to propose a comprehensive partnership between the defence industries of the two countries.

India on the other hand needs partners who can ease its path to a larger international role. The people, resources and institutions of Britain are India's welcome force multipliers. Delhi and London, then, have every incentive to pool their resources — in other words reinvent the Raj — for mutual benefit.

Raja Mohan , always on some US endowed chair or the other is a perfect example of Indians available for a price like many others in India and abroad to promote Western cause .

Chinese Reaction


The Chinese reaction was extreme .An article in the web edition of People's Daily, the mouthpiece of ruling Communist Party of China, in an article titled "Britain, India also to make bilateral ties special" said "for Britain, this kind of relationship usually refers to the ties of alliance between Britain and the United States, so the implication of Cameron's remarks seems to be quite profound."

Picking out British trade minister Vince Cable's remarks that British government will first permit the export of nuclear energy to India for civil use the Daily commented, "India has so far not signed the Nuclear Non- proliferation Treaty and the British government had long been in opposition to exporting its nuclear technology and equipment to India," it said without referring to the Indo-US nuclear deal.( Sounds funny from Beijing , one of the greatest proliferators of nukes technology and missiles)  

"Nevertheless, the British government considers it necessary now to differentiate the civil and military nuclear facilities and, so it would be likely to issue a nuclear export permit to India as soon as possible.

"Furthermore, he acknowledged frankly that India has a civil nuclear power market of more than 100 billion US dollars and, once the ban is lifted, British business is expected to win huge amounts of orders," it said.

On UK-India defence ties, it said "India is well-known for relying on foreign in particular Russian military equipment and technology to modernise its military forces. But in recent years, India is trying to diversify its weapon suppliers for whom the potential market is immense. "And Britain has a certain appeal in this regard. So, Prime Minister Cameron's trip to India opens the door for British arms manufacturers to expand their weaponry exports to India," it said.

UK as a partner

Only Indian English speaking ignoranti see UK and US as reliable allies in spite of their past record and proclivities. While making soothing statements both Washington and its poodle London have ignored India's vital concerns .BBC still calls the ISI trained terrorists who raped India's economic and cultural metropolis Mumbai as gunmen. It allows so called freedom organizations which affect adversely security of India and other countries in south and central Asia.

Even the Wilkileaks giving details about US perfidy have not persuaded Indian policy makers not to outsource Indian security to Washington and embark on an independent line to guard Indian national interests . India has unnecessarily ruffled China's feathers to please Washington , angered Iran by siding with the US effort to browbeat Tehran on the nuclear issue on which Tehran is quite justified .Washington's ambassador in New Delhi even got Oil minister Mani Shankar Aiyar dismissed for his efforts to ensure energy security. His successor , a nominee of a rich corporate house in Mumbai has done pretty little in that direction. India's relations with Russia have also suffered .

Indian US relations have become hostage to Indian corporate houses and Americans of Indian origin who look to their and US interests first unlike the Jews or the Chinese .Indians have little feeling of nationalism whose identity is based on caste, religion, language and region .

Conservative party leader Cameron heads a coalition with Liberal Democrats, after the likes of Tony Blair mouthing half truths and lies who led UK into a disastrous misadventure tagging along for crumbs of loot with the US led illegal invasion of Iraq .It was very unpopular among the people who defeated the New Labour under Gordon Brown who took over after Blair was almost cornered into resigning . Earlier Maggie Thatcher's disastrous anti- people policies had destroyed the party 's popularity among the masses .

Death Agony of Thatcher Deregulated Finance Model

Wrote F. William Engdahl in January ,2009,"During the end of the 1970's into the 1980's British Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and the City of London financial interests who backed her, introduced wholesale measures of privatization, state budget cuts, moves against labor and deregulation of the financial markets. She did so in parallel with similar moves in the USA initiated by advisers around President Ronald Reagan. The claim was that hard medicine was needed to curb inflation and that the bloated state bureaucracy was a central problem. For almost three decades, Anglo-American university economic faculties have turned to Thatcherite deregulation of financial markets as 'the efficient way,' in the process, undoing many of the hard-fought gains secured for personal social security, public health care and pension security of the population. Now the 'poster child' economy of the Thatcher Revolution, Great Britain, is sinking like the proverbial Titanic, a testimony to the incompetence of what is generally called Neo-liberalism or free market ideology."


The proposal for the return of the fabled Indian diamond Kohinoor , now part of the British crown jewels, was raised by British MP of Indian origin Keith Vaz just before the visit. Cameron shot it down , saying if such demands were agreed to, it would lead to empty rooms in British Museums. But there is more than the priceless pieces in British museums like Buddhist Amravati railings or the Sultanganj Buddha, also known as the Birmingham Buddha, which was stolen in 1861,

Colonial Exploitation and Loot

"The conquest of the earth, which means the taking away from those who have a different complexion and slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look at it too much." Conrad's Marlow in Heart of Darkness

India must not forget that before the arrival of the British East India Company in the late 18th century, the sub-continent's share in world manufacturing was 24.5 percent in 1750 ( 32.8 percent for China ). But by the time the British had finished with India, the sub-continent's share had fallen to 1.7 percent (in 1900) and that of the British increased from 1.9 percent (in 1750) to 22.9 percent (in 1880) - Rise and fall of Big Powers by Professor Paul Kennedy.  In these bald figures lie tens of millions of deaths in famines , many times because food grains were exported for profits or not distributed where needed and in time .The riches looted from India and export of industrial products in exchange for India's raw materials triggered British industrial revolution , expansion and maintenance of the vast British empire over which the Sun never set.

Ten millions killed after the 1857 revolution.

In his book "War of Civilizations: India AD 1857" writer/journalist Shri Amaresh Misra states that 1857 revolt was a revolution which failed because it was not sufficiently well organized. It was much more broad-based than thought and lasted well beyond 1857, all the way into the 20th century. It was a war of civilizations. "The conventional view that Indians lost militarily or politically has to be overhauled… Despite everything, Indians could still have won a conventional victory — it was only internal betrayal that probably skewed this possibility." (Internal betrayal can be seen everywhere and everyday)

The number of Indians killed in revenge after 1857 has been estimated at 10 million (7 per cent of the population) in UP, Haryana and Bihar alone based on primary sources in the National Archives in New Delhi and the state archives in Lucknow, Patna, Bhopal, Bombay, and Ahmadabad apart from the Raza Library in Rampur, Shibli Numani Library in Azamgarh, Khuda Baksh Library in Patna, and the Deoband Library. The original sources are in Urdu, Persian, and Arabic.

The British did destroy all records on the genocide but preserved the story of the battles because the British had to report to their superiors. The figures of the genocide were tabulated from land, railway and labor survey reports. From Lahore and Bangladesh Misra obtained the gazetteers of districts of Punjab, Sind, and NWFP of Dhaka, Chittagong, and Fareed Pur.

Wrote Soutik Biswas , the online correspondent for BBC News in his blog," Most of Indian colonial experience was extremely unsavoury.Experts point to the tendency of the British rulers to cultivate local elites, empowering some of them and dividing the masses. (Lord Macaulay, who spearheaded the founding of India's education system, suggested it set up natives who were "Indian in colour and blood, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect".) [ Unfortunately Indians have still not evolved a basic Indian model. Against brown English speaking elite brainwashed by the British and now the US way of life ,are ranged the indigenous grass roots leadership in India, where many oppose English , now almost the international language and even computers for political consumption .But flaunt computers , a necessity and send their own children to English media schools and colleges.

"The collaboration with entrenched elites strengthened feudalism in what was already a deeply hierarchical society. Income, urbanization, education and health care stagnated. Average economic growth in the first half of the century under British rule was 1%. Colonial trade was extractive and exploitative, leaving India poorer. –But the colonial understanding of this complex nation was suspect, i.e. Winston Churchill predicted that if the British left India the country "will fall back quite rapidly through the centuries into barbarism and privations of the Middle Ages"

However unlike 17 century, there is now a big boy Washington entrenched in New Delhi since the collapse of the British Empire following its over reach and unbearable defense expenditure in WWII and unraveling of the Soviet Union. It is another matter that like London and Moscow, Washington too has over reached itself and with 700 billion on defense ( as much as the rest of the world put together ) and over 600 billion current account deficit is being financed by Beijing and others investing in soon to be worthless securities , caught in Iraq quagmire and realizing that the war in Afghanistan is unwinnable and has arrived at the same historical denouement along with the poodle , the United Kingdom.   

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies. Copy right with the author