Foreign Policy Watch: India – EU

The ‘Difficult Four’ Countries


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Global perception of India's image

A UK think-tank ‘Royal Institute of International Affairs’ has listed India in ‘Difficult 4’; clubs India with China, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

This newscard helps analyse the Western esp. that of the EU’s perception of India and its global image under the present regime.

What is the news?

  • A report called ‘Global Britain, Global Broker’ has warned the UK government to consider India as more of a rival that a cooperative partner.
  • It accepts the fact that India is set to be the largest country in the world by population very soon and will have the third-largest economy and defence budget at some point in this decade.
  • But it cautions that gaining direct national benefit from the relationship, whether economically or diplomatically, will be difficult for the UK government.
  • The report also accepts India’s importance to the UK as being “inescapable”.

The ‘Difficult Four’

  • Clubbing India with China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey as the “difficult four”, the report says the Johnson government should be more realistic about developing deeper ties with India.
  • They may be important to the UK’s commercial interests, but they will be rivals or, at best, awkward counterparts on many of its global goals, the report warns.
  • India is now classed as a country, destined to count among the UK’s “rivals” or “awkward counterparts” as it pursues its global goals.

India has had bitter (colonial) past

  • The think-tank strikes a note of caution over the two countries’ shared colonial history proving a stumbling block to the promise of a deeper relationship.
  • India has a long and consistent record of resisting being corralled into a ‘Western’ camp.
  • As a result, India is always on the list of countries with which a new UK government commits to engage.
  • But it should be obvious by now that the idea of a deeper relationship with India always promises more than it can deliver.
  • The legacy of British colonial rule consistently curdles the relationship.

Indian flaws

  • The report points to India’s “complex, fragmented domestic politics”, which make it one of the countries resistant to open trade and foreign investment.
  • It highlights concerns raised by domestic groups as well as the UN over a “crackdown on human rights activists and civil society groups” not being actively challenged by the judiciary.
  • It raises concern over India’s pursuance of extreme right-winged policies. Indian domestic politics also has entered a more ethnic-nationalist phase, the report argues.
  • Against this backdrop, the report reflects on the prospect of including India within any new Democratic 10 or D10 coalition of 10 leading democracies.

Try this question from 2019 CS Mains:


Q.What are the challenges to our cultural practices in the name of secularism? (150W)

UK’s resentment

  • In a critique of India’s diplomatic behaviour, the report points out that despite border clashes with China, “India did not join the group of countries that criticized China at the UN in July 2019 over HR violations in Xinjiang.
  • India has also been muted in its criticism of the passage of the new national security law in Hong Kong.

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