December 15, 2020
In the backdrop of British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Dominic Raab’s visit to India and his discussions with External Affairs Minister of India Dr S Jaishankar today, leading think tanks CUTS International and Bridge India called for greater Indo-Pacific collaboration between both countries.
The organisations hosted an online meeting today of its members to celebrate the meeting of the two major economic partners, focusing on the potential for greater trade and investment cooperation along the Indo-Pacific.
Both CUTS International and Bridge India welcomed Dominic Raab’s comments today suggesting a tilt towards the Indo-Pacific cooperation in maritime security and climate change.
The meeting emphasised that the two countries should work together not only for their own mutual development and benefit, but also to deepen cooperation as democracies, and to act as a bulwark against the rise of China, whose growing influence permeated traditional areas of strength in the region for the UK and India.
Opening the programme, Pradeep Mehta, Secretary General of CUTS International said that India can be a reliable economic partner for the UK in its post-Brexit strategy in the Indo-Pacific region, since both countries shares a similar vision of free and open Indo-Pacific based on rules based international order.
Welcoming the participants, UK-based Development Practitioner Arti Lad shared hope that as the United Kingdom assumes a new and independent trade policy following its exit from the European Union, its policies and economic agenda will aim to achieve prosperity in both India and the UK. She also shared the potential for both the countries to cooperate in the eradication of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Didar Singh, former Secretary General of FICCI and Secretary to GoI, there is the need to have a broader discourse to understand the political relationship India desires to have with the UK which should include policy dialogue regarding multilateralism and other global issues such as climate change and democracy.
British economist Lord Meghnad Desai expressed his optimism about deeper bilateral collaboration post-Brexit and said “the UK-India dialogue should be pretty straightforward, as long as India knows it is in quite a strong position.”
Lord Jonathan Marland, Chair of Commonwealth Enterprise & Investment Council, said that there are several Commonwealth countries in the Indo-Pacific that would eagerly engage with India and the UK more deeply, but highlighted a reluctance from the Indian government to fully realise the benefits of the Commonwealth.
Stefania Benaglia, Associate Researcher, CEPS, said that the UK could be playing catch-up with its neighbours, as “the EU is now really defining its own priorities in, and drafting its own strategy for, the Indo-Pacific.”
Jaimini Bhagwati, former Indian Ambassador to the UK, was also of the view “France, Germany and the Netherlands too are more amenable to the Indo-Pacific concept as outlined by the members of the Quad”. He went on to say “the UK’s volume of trade and investment with China is such that when it looks upon the Indo-Pacific it’s going to be very careful as to what it says” because the volume of trade with India is much lower.
Lord Marland added “there is a balance here, whether the UK take a proactive view to stop this relentless pursuit … or cooperate with China.” This theme of containment was echoed in the remainder of the discussion, which was moderated by Dr Didar Singh.
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CUTS International: CUTS International (Consumer Unity & Trust Society) began its journey in 1983 in Rajasthan, from a rural development communication initiative, a wall newspaper Gram Gadar (Village Revolution). This monthly wall newspaper is published regularly and has been instrumental in providing a forum for the oppressed classes to get justice. On seeing Gram Gadar, Rubens Ricupero, Secretary-General of UNCTAD (1995-2004) observed: “It confirmed my view that often the simple lack of awareness lies at the root of so much misery”. Find out more at cuts-international.org.
Bridge India: Bridge India is a progressive non-profit think tank dedicated to discourse on public policy. It is a registered charity in England & Wales number 1183696, funded through memberships. The ‘India Story’ abroad is often presented through a narrow lens, be it focusing only on business and the economy, society or policy landscape. Given its diversity, everything about India, and its polar opposite, is true in unison. Bridge India seeks to highlight and celebrate this nuance, to help India-watchers understand India better. Find out more at www.bridgeindia.org.uk.
For more information, please contact:
CUTS International: Bipul Chatterjee, +919829285921, firstname.lastname@example.org
Bridge India: email@example.com