This was a huge step forward for an association that was on shaky ground after Obama’s very obvious anti-outsourcing stance. The general misnomer among political pundits that Obama was ignoring India in his bid to strengthen ties with Beijing and secure US military objectives with his Af-Pak strategy. For a partnership that had flourished under the Bush era, what with the Indo-US nuclear deal being inked, this was almost like new life was being breathed into the relationship after a long period of estrangement.
But even as the new wave of this political alliance takes off in style, what’s really happened to the Indo-British love affair? Does India’s “gen-next” really care about Britain anymore? After all we share a long history with the United Kingdom and whatever is said and done we are immensely proud of our colonial past, whether it’s through our use of the English language, our constitution and judiciary or the long established tradition of our students going and studying at Britain’s well respected universities like Oxford and Cambridge. Has that awe and reverence for anything ‘British’ so apparent among the previous generations waned with the fading impact of the Raj?
Not quite! But our general apathy and lack of interest in Britain was discernible during the recently held general elections. A survey conducted by a leading newspaper here in India revealed that majority of the respondents questioned (except in Calcutta, the last capital of British India) did not even know Britain had an impending general election. About half the population surveyed in various metros couldn’t care less who took over as the next prime minister and there was a general lackadaisical attitude towards the whole exercise, pretty much contrary to the excitement we saw building up in India when the presidential race was going on in the United States.
On the positive front though, 79% of those polled said India’s relationship with Britain was an important one and from what the findings suggest, there is still that sense of intrigue when it comes to other quintessentially British things like the royal family, an obsession with etiquette and manners etc. Indians also held Britain in high esteem when it came to things like cleanliness, good education, architecture etc.
Of course with more and more Indian students going to the UK to study each year, a large and successful diaspora and a long legacy through the commonwealth of nations, Britain will always matter in India’s scheme of things & vice versa. But on the geo-political front at least, the next few decades will be shaped by strong Indo-US bilateral ties.