Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

[oped of the day] Raja Mandala: Looking beyond the diaspora

Note4Students

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : India - UK : Role of Diaspora

Context

Indian diaspora rallied behind the Tories, as the Labour Party is hostile towards India on the question of Kashmir. Delhi welcomes the return of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister of Britain.

India – Britain

  • There is much distance to cover before problems with London on Kashmir and Pakistan are overcome.
  • On Kashmir – the Labour Party had approved a resolution criticising India’s decision to change the constitutional position of Kashmir. It expressed support for the Kashmiri “right to self-determination” and calling for “international intervention” and “mediation” between Delhi and Islamabad. 

Indian diaspora

  • Nearly 130 Indian community organisations in Britain sent strong messages of protests to the Labour Party.
  • Labour’s Kashmir policy helped unite the Indian community in Britain. 
  • Number – At nearly 1.4 million, the Indian diaspora in Britain is one of the largest and its contributions to civic life — economic, political and social. It has steadily grown over the decades.
  • Problems with British – the problem of British involvement in Kashmir and other India-Pakistan issues are unlikely to disappear.

Competition with Pakistan

  • India is being sucked into an unfortunate competition with Pakistan in diaspora mobilisation in the United Kingdom and beyond.
  • The recent developments in the US show that Pakistan has stepped up the effort to direct its diaspora against India’s Kashmir policy. 
  • Pakistan has strong reasons to extend and deepen its sphere of contestation with India into the domestic politics of the Anglo-Saxon world. Here, the South Asian diaspora is in large numbers.
  • India should avoid the danger of turning this competition with Pakistan as the central preoccupation in dealing with the West and its domestic opinion.

Indian diaspora

  • Though Indian diaspora outnumbers the Pakistani diaspora, it is hard to cope with the larger alliances that are questioning India’s current domestic policies. 
  • The new coalitions bind the Pakistani diaspora with the communities of Muslim organisations and human rights groups. 
  • India needs to reassure friendly constituencies in the West that are concerned about the nature of recent developments in India.

Kashmir question

  • In the first term of Prime Minister Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Robin Cook’s interventionist policy on Kashmir wrecked Queen Elizabeth’s visit to India in 1997 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Independence. 
  • Conservative prime ministers before Johnson sought to move Britain decisively away from Labour’s tilt towards Pakistan on Kashmir.
  • It has been a lot harder to change the attitudes of the British establishment or the “deep state”.

Way ahead

  • India’s most recent political spat with London was under the Conservative government of Boris Johnson. 
  • It was over the British role in the United Nations Security Council discussions that after Delhi’s decision to alter the constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • Delhi must manage the tactical shifts in the British establishment’s attitude to Kashmir and other bilateral issues between Delhi and Islamabad.
  • It must also recognise that Britain has its own interests in Pakistan and faces pressures to respond to them.

Role of diaspora

  • Mobilising the diaspora can only be a small part of India’s strategy in getting Britain to change its approach towards its issues with Pakistan. 
  • India’s economy is nearly 10 times larger than that of Pakistan. There is a much larger swathe of shared interests between Delhi and London. There are other ways of persuading the British establishment to rethink its stance on India.

Conclusion

  • Delhi must now focus on the new possibilities with Britain presented by Boris Johnson’s victory.
  • India has to take full advantage of the historic shift in Britain’s international orientation — economic and political.
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