For far too long Britain has acted with a deeply naive attitude towards India. Labour’s conduct towards the emerging super-power has not only done much to damage our relations at a governmental level – I.K. Gujral, Indian Prime minster from 1997 to 1998, once described Britain as ‘a third-rate power’ – but has also been detrimental to the image that the average Indian holds of us. I had ample chance for debate with Indian students whilst being shown round Mumbai University. Political students, with an insightful understanding of diplomacy between Britain and India, often told me that the former was often perceived as subordinating the latter, through some complacent arrogance that had somehow imbedded itself in the policies of successive governments after 1947.
The British ruled in India for over 200 years, the images of English gentlemen riding elephants and the stories of Kipling are a deep-set part of our culture, and to older generations India will always be that jewel in the British empire. However, we are deeply mistaken if we assume that this shared history gives us any prestige in the eyes of Indians. To Indians, this is little more than a period of history best forgotten.
Right from the outset mistakes were made by Labour about the ‘shared history’ that Britain and India were, quite wrongly, assumed to posses. During the Queen’s 1997 visit, a Band of Royal Marines was forbidden from playing due to its ‘imperial connotations’ and the then foreign secretary, Robin Cook, put his foot in it by offering to mediate between India and Pakistan.
In its final years, Labour was far too occupied in its snuggling-up to China to turn its attentions to the quietly flourishing India and recognise its increasing importance as both a military and trading ally. Once again, embarrassing mistakes were made; notably, David Miliband lecturing Indian Ministers on human rights issues whilst addressing them by their first names. All of which has only served to push Britain to the peripheries of India’s political consciousness.
Thankfully, It seems that Cameron’s delegation of cabinet ministers and business leaders – the largest British delegation to visit the country since independence – can be taken as a direct contrast to labour’s prior indifference, and putting in its place an appreciation and reverence for a state that could do just as well without our support.
That is not to say that this new ‘special relationship’ is completely without benefits for India. The £700m deal between BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce and Hindustan Aeronautics will provide a multitude of jobs to the masses of unemployed within India (a problem that is currently being remedied by assigning three of four workers to do the job of one).
Furthermore, though we cannot rely on a shared sense of history and nostalgia to support relations between our two countries, we can appeal to the deep personal ties that are not hard to find. Britain has a 1.5 million Indian diaspora and there are 34,000 Indian nationals studying in Britain, and despite the growing allure of America as a place to study, Britain is still held as the highest in terms of repute (in all the Indian cities I visited, I saw billboards advertising agencies that would – perhaps misleadingly- ‘guarantee’ you a student visa to Britain). All of which instantly brings Britain and India closer together.
Let’s hope that David Cameron’s pledges to place a cap on non-EU migration and restrictions on student visas doesn’t end up being irrevocably detrimental towards these personal ties.
If you have been following the financial press as of late, you’re probably well aware that there is a contentious debate between deficit reduction hawks and those who call for the more state spending to boost global demand. At the latest juncture of this debate, Toronto’s G20 summit, the international community sided with the deficit hawks and committed to halve deficits by 2013. One would imagine this hysteria over public debt is a response to market pressure. Not so, say the bond markets. The latest calls for debt reduction, far from a reasoned response to economic reality, are products of an ideological opposition to a strong state sector:
Instead of bond market fears, the US has an intense political debate about deficits and whether to spend more on fiscal stimulus. Steny Hoyer, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives, has talked of “spending fatigue”. His Republican opponents have set up “YouCut” – a weekly public vote on which spending to cut, American Idol-style.
In The Curse of Black Gold: Lest we should forget (https://theglottalstop.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/the-curse-of-black-gold-lest-we-should-forget/) posted on the 7th of June, The Glottal Stop issued a rather poignant reminder of the dangers of trying to accommodate insatiable demands for fuel and the human and environmental costs of going further and further in the search for more black gold.
We’ll, did we forget? Remarkably, yes. Because of the demand for fuel in America, the moratorium that Obama imposed on deep drilling was always unlikely to last long; polls suggest that Americans don’t support it. But already, a court in New Orleans has declared the moratorium ‘unlawful’, paving the way for oil giants to resume their hazardous search for the last barrel. How long until the the US oil spill crisis become a distant memory; before it becomes just another blotch in the pages of history?
I wish I had foresight…
“Oil rigs today generally don’t cause spills” is the tune that Obama sang as he opened up more of US waters to drilling only 18 days prior to the explosion on the BP oil rig. Granted, he’s cautious, telling us that oil rigs ‘generally’ don’t cause spills, but it is a sound bite that has come back to bight him.
Whenever there is a controversial event sure to garner large (and possibly violent) protests, I wait eagerly like a child on Christmas Eve. Mimicking the igneous method employed by Bart Simpson to reach his Christmas presents at the earliest possible hour, I drink enough water to insure that I awake to meet the inky-fingered paperboy as he saunters to my doorstep with the package that I so eagerly wish to uncoil. I flip through the pages anxiously in search of titillating accounts of windows smashed and innocents saved (or the more common inverse–windows saved, innocents smashed). Upon hastily skimming through stories of vandalism and violence, I become infuriated at the nefarious hoodlums who would dare disrespect my fine country and rouse the rabble that occupies it. I then faithfully flip to the the back in search of strongly-worded condemnations populating the editorial and opinion section of my trustworthy newspaper. I intently read the penetrating analysis made by revered pundits, invariably offering stern admonishments to troublemakers and troubles made. These petty criminals offer no coherent political viewpoints, I am told; a rag-tag group of attention-seeking vandals worthy of nothing better than pity, with a dollop of derision and a dash of condescension. (more…)
On the 15ht of June BBC News reported that
The BBC has received 545 complaints about the sound of vuvuzela horns during its World Cup coverage.
The corporation is considering showing coverage that cuts out the noise of vuvuzelas on its red button service.
On Monday, World Cup organisers ruled out a stadium ban on the plastic horns, which can reach 130 decibels, following complaints from players and fans.
Experts say it is impossible to cut out the horns without affecting commentary and crowd noise.
The BBC says it has already "taken steps to minimise the noise".
Did those 545 half-wits genuinely believe that it is the BBC who is responsible for the wasp-like noise that these horns make?
The Beeb reported that:
Prime Minister David Cameron has welcomed Conservative predecessor Baroness Thatcher back to 10 Downing Street for a reception in her honour.
They shook hands and waved at photographers before entering the building but did not answer questions.
Baroness Thatcher, 84, is one of the first guests to be hosted in Downing Street since the coalition entered office last month.
She wore a light blue dress and coat for her meeting with Mr Cameron, emerging from Number 10 some 45 minutes after going into the building.
A smiling Mr Cameron said: "It’s good to have her back."
This last quote sent shivers down my spine.
The Curse of Black Gold: Lest we should forget
In 1859 a retired railway worker named Colonel Edwin Drake developed the idea that oil could be extracted from the ground using wells. At Titusville, Pennsylvania, he bored a hole to a depth of 69 feet and got the world’s first ‘gusher’. It was quickly realised that petroleum in volume could be used not just for medical reasons (for example, it was originally used in medicines for the treatment of different ailments), but could be refined into lucrative products like paraffin and kerosene.
After that discovery, Western Pennsylvania boomed inordinately. In three months the ‘Pithole city’ (as John Mcphee, author of ‘suspect terrain’, so aptly named it) went from a population of 0 to 15,000. For a while Pennsylvania had a virtual monopoly on one of the world’s most valuable resources, oil, and it was dominant also in the production of coal. Many people became colossally rich, Pennsylvania prospered, and there began the developed world’s demand for oil. A demand that grew, and grew and grew. But it soon became clear, that satisfying this demand brought its dangers, disasters and uncertainties.
If ever there was a man who was in the right place at the right time, it’s Lucky Ramaroa, owner of Lucky’s Pub in Phokeng, South Africa.
Lucky is, well, lucky enough to own the only pub in the town where England will play their first world cup game.
Around 4,1000 England fans hold tickets for the match against the USA, although thousands more are expected to turn up at the stadium on the day, leaving Lucky with a large pool of thirsty football fans to fill his 100-person capacity pub.
“I have hit the jackpot here, no doubt,”
Ramaroa said: “Unemployment is very high here, 60%. People have nothing to do but drink, but the World Cup will bring something extra to their lives, some excitement.
“Not much ever happens here and it doesn’t get any better than England coming. I have even been searching the internet for photographs of the Queen.”
He may well be lucky, but with England football fans who behave like this;
We can only hope that he’s more than lucky…