“It has been a difficult year for India also. Both global and domestic factors have affected our growth. We need to address the impact of both. My Government has responded to the situation by taking several measures to revive investment activity and investor sentiment“.
The above are the opening lines of a recent joint address to the Indian Parliament by President Pranab Mukherjee. Interestingly, this comes at a time when David Cameron, Britain’s Prime Minister is visiting India. The present talks are a ‘soft’ measure to increase Bilateral relations between the two countries- with an aim to double them by 2015. According to an Independent member of the Indian Parliament, America is the new Britain in the Indian imagination. India has definitely come a long way from a time when London used to set the western benchmark for its people.
The United Kingdom has an Indian Population of over 1.6 million, and the most successful entrepreneurs belong to this population. In recent times, the TATA group has become UK’s largest industrial employer. However, in the light of global recession and India’s political and economic turmoil, the trade agenda highlighted by Cameron during the visit seems too ambitious. Along similar lines, the Indian delegation has also proposed higher market access in the agriculture and services sector in the EU and UK. If applied, these can take certain sectors of the Indian Industry either way. However, in doing so, India runs a great risk of making its markets too dependent on Foreign Investment. Currently, these measures tend to overshadow the many other ways in which India can complement the UK. To begin with, the strong technology hub at Bangalore, can support the cluster of start-ups at UK’s silicon roundabout to bring it at par with the Silicon Valley.
”While we should rejoice in the benefits that our plurality brings, the challenge is to relentlessly pursue our efforts to accelerate economic growth and widen opportunities within our democratic framework. It is only if we constantly renew and defend the democratic values that define our nationhood that we will be able to face the great challenges that lie before us“.
This is another statement from the same presidential address that brings a different set of factors to light. Subtly, this also refers to the internal strife of the past few months. Protests against recent government scams, petitions for human rights issues, and critical concerns about rising crime rates and the safety of women continue to plague the metropolises. India is certainly in a dilemma about the security of its democratic status.
On the other hand, there have been allegations about a past deal concerning British Eurofighter jets, that cloud these talks. This is regarding bribes paid in securing the $750 million contract involving Anglo-Italian helicopter maker Augusta Westland in 2010. As a result of these talks, the British Prime Minister has assured the Indian government of seeking full assistance from the UK in investigating the same.
In recent developments, trade Unions in India’s capital continue to agitate against the price rise that Foreign Direct Investment has set off in Indian Markets. The Indian polity is going to enter into National Elections next year. In Britain, the regulations for Indian students continue to prohibit their entry into UK jobs without a full sponsorship. While Cameron’s visit does not have a strong bearing on the short term, it seems like a far sighted strategy to reinstate the position of the UK in the Indian imagination. However, it does not seem like a feasible solution to immediate problems that continue to widen the distance between the two countries.