At a time when the UK economy is stagnating and jobs are a key concern, this was indeed a desperate effort by Cameron to renew economic links with a nation that will provide future opportunities for growth. But as Britain rejoiced over this renewed love affair between the two countries, India’s remarkable lack of interest in Cameron and his buddies was apparent on several fronts. While the Indian media was more interested in exploring the rationale behind a down-market reality TV star’s failed 2nd marriage, New Delhi put Cameron firmly in his place by turning down a request to address parliament. The Indian public meanwhile couldn’t care less. They will probably tune in only when Obama comes down, a few weeks from now.
Yet despite this tepid response from the hosts, on the economic front Cameron did manage to clinch an $800 million Defense contract at Bangalore even as the British Business Secretary Vince Cable announced that deals worth billions of dollars could be in the pipeline as the UK begins to issue licenses to its civil nuclear firms to export equipment to India. On the political front Cameron reiterated his strong support for India by backing Delhi’s demand to become a permanent UN Security Council member. And in what was clearly a political statement, he also ruffled feathers across the border by claiming that Pakistan promoted the export of terror, which in fact led to its intelligence officials, cancelling their visit to Britain.
On the flipside though, immigration is still a bone of contention between the two countries, and possibly the most important issue for Indians wanting to work and study abroad. And there clearly wasn’t much headway on that front. Also while a few deals have been struck here and there, what’s important to note is that trade between the two countries has been consistently on a downslide for many years now. Britain was the fifth largest exporter to India in 2005 but has since then fallen to 18th position and it will take a lot more than ‘special relationship’ proclamations from Cameron to resurrect that.
This visit of course is a start to what could possibly be a renewed and more fruitful bilateral relationship between the two countries. But more importantly it has been an eye opener to how remarkable the decline of Britain in the average Indians’ consciousness has been over the past 50 years. And it’s going to take a helluva lot to reverse that.
The tables have turned and HOW!