Courting 'Asia's Other Powerhouse'
Bush is back from touring India. He has just about sealed the nuclear deal that Indian newspapers are hailing as a turning point in bilateral relations: a new period of mutual respect, of partnership, of ‘IND-US Civilization’ as the Times of India put it on Saturday.
If the press are to be believed, Indo-US relations have never been so promising. Greeted as an American Maharajah by well-wishers according to the New York Times, Indian Outlook found that two thirds of people agreed the Bush was a ‘friend of the country’ during his visit. Brushing over the star-spangled banner-burning that happened to coincide with his trip, Bush announced that India is a ‘natural partner’ for the US. This seems a very strong bid to ride out the gathering storm rather than try to ‘rise above’ it.
In reality, the US is just the latest in a stream of political and economic delegations to Asia’s other powerhouse. ‘India Everywhere,’ might have seemed a rather grandiose campaign claim for this year’s WEF Davos summit, but on reflection, it seems more and more accurate. As Newsweek points out, Bush arrived in India hot on the heels of Jaques Chirac, who only just missed King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. This week John Howard of Australia will tag himself into the ring. On my recent fieldwork for Atlas of Ideas, rare was an interview where I didn’t find myself preceded or followed by another foreign delegation.And where is the UK in this whirlwind of political and economic tourism? Well, we make our fair share of scoping trips. A Demos team has just returned from seven weeks in India studying dynamics of science and innovation for The Atlas of Ideas. The Telegraph reports today that the City of London is opening its first office in India, and the London Stock Exchange is looking to set up a link with the Indian stock market in Mumbai. It looks likely that the Chancellor will use his Budget on 22nd March to encourage greater investment in India, whilst UKTI is promised a thorough �beefing up.�
These are encouraging signs. The UK certainly has longstanding ties with India. But is our shared history enough? New friends are always more exciting. Should we simply brush uncomfortable memories of The British Raj under the carpet as �history�? We need to find new ways to make the most of the positive aspects of our history with India, such as the size of the entrepreneurial Indian diaspora in the UK.
We can�t just stand in line and politely wait our turn with India; other countries don�t like to queue as much as us Brits, and it just might never come.