Indian foreign policy is overwhelmingly intertwined with its business interests. It's time for a fresh perspective to stave off the kind of embarrassment UK caused to India recently.
In April 2017, when Phillip Hammond, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer met Arun Jaitley, the finance minister of India, they unequivocally vouched to "strengthen the existing economic partnership in order to further boost trade and investment" between the nations. Twelve months since that high profile meeting, came the Modi mega event in April 2018, when the Indian Prime Minister visited London to partake in Commonwealth Summit. During his trip, he not only met the British Prime Minister Theresa May, but was also facilitated a personal meeting with the queen. It was Modi's second trip in less than three years and was regarded as an effort towards strengthening India-UK trade ties. But barely two months after his visit, has the UK government poured cold water on the expectations of Indians to move any inch closer to them.
In June 2018, the British government released a list of what was called 'low risk countries' where applying from, the applicants wouldn't be subjected to extreme vetting in order to get a UK visa. India, the fastest growing economy in the world, surprisingly, was not on the list. To the Indian consternation, what was mentioned on the list apart from countries including Bahrain and Serbia was China. It means Chinese students who wish to study in the UK would be granted tier 4 visa (The student visa for UK) with reduced checks compared to Indian students. Not to forget that India is the 3rd largest investor in the UK.
There could be many but at least one worrisome conclusion from the British government's decision is - the exclusion of India. The UK government has decided to prioritize China over India. This is serious and should be an eye opener for those who think Mr. Modi has won the world and there is barely anything left for him to achieve. However, the credit does go to the PM for stating in clear terms about the freedom of movement of Indians to the UK, when he met Mrs. May in India on her first ever trade tour as prime minister. But hold on folks, why China over India? Why prefer an undemocratic authoritative and to a certain extent autocratic regime over a flawed yet flourishing democracy?
There are two main reasons for it. First, which Indians are not used to with listening – partly because of a large section of Indian media portraying us the new Rambo of Asia - is our economic status compared to Chinese. China is UK's second largest trading partner. The whole poetic verbose about the historical relationship between India and UK is outweighed by the fiscal prose. Chinese media presents it as the 'golden era of financial relations', a term which was used by David Cameron, the former prime minister of the UK. Interestingly Mr. Cameron, on his official trips, had visited India more than any other country which means he was keen in developing the bond.
Second: economic upheaval, overnight, is impossible but India could certainly do something to turn the tide in its favour. What is missing lies in Indian foreign policy. The Indian dispensation, with all relevant and logical intentions is focused on bringing the world to India. For, example 'Make in India' is to attract inward investment. It's beyond doubt that India needs investment in trillions for infrastructure development but at the same time foreign experience for Indians would be an asset. Providing impetus for a global exposure for Indians is imperative for the development of India. India does need to have a single window system for investors but also needs to think about the human development. This is where India can learn from China which is leaving no stone unturned to send its students abroad.
They are sending students to learn about the economy and management of the west despite being staunch supporter of their own development model. They are good at negotiations and so is our government but what lacks is idea of development. What lacks is a proper foreign policy, which currently, is intertwined with economy in such a way that it stifles other priorities. China is working on something called 'all round human development' and with all the criticism that one might heap onto its establishment, what is commendable is the farsightedness of Xi-Jinping. India can't afford to be myopic to the requirement of providing a fresh perspective to its foreign policy.