A Labour Government could still be hugely advantageous to India, if Corbyn and McDonnell are willing to accept how the country is evolvingby Manoj Ladwa / March 9, 2018 / Leave a comment
Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has climbed up in the business sector’s estimation in recent days, winning some applause in at least one unlikely forum: the British Chambers of Commerce.
Following Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s commitment to keeping the UK in “a customs union” with the EU—a commitment the CBI and many independent business leaders have demanded the Prime Minister adopt—critics are starting to seriously consider the opposition party’s vision for the UK and its strategic influence in the world.
Whether or not the UK remains in the customs union or single market, the UK will have to be far more strategic about its relationship with major economies.
Take India. On Thursday evening, McDonnell spoke to the Indian Professionals Forum to address the role business and innovation can play in building economic ties with that country.
India invests far more in the UK than in any other European economy. The UK is India’s largest investor in the G20.
Nothing is stopping the UK trading more with India—not even the EU. The only impediment is a lack of strategic ambition.
The UK’s leaders have been slow to locate the UK’s global identity in the twenty-first century. Would John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn be any exception? Would India recoil from the UK if Corbyn became Prime Minister—and could a Labour Government maintain the UK’s position as India’s gateway to Europe.
The Labour leader recently spoke at the Commonwealth Parliamentarians Forum, where the audience included 24 Indian MPs.
He railed against an “Empire 2.0” approach to building advantageous economic ties with former colonies and called for a ‘partnership of equals’—citing the economic trajectory of India, a driving force in global economic growth.
His comments would have done much to enamour him to many in India who see the value and opportunity in a more strategic partnership in the UK.
Showing no patience for imperial nostalgia, Corbyn echoes Shashi Tharoor’s 2007 book Inglorious Empire, a rigorous and fearless academic critique of the British Empire’s legacy in India.
Yet we should look carefully at the areas where Corbyn is really able to construct partnerships with India, through better engagement with the Indian diaspora community, and with technology, business and infrastructure initiatives that are shaping India under Prime Minister Modi.
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