Boris Johnson defeated his nearest rival and Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has now announced that he will not lead his party in the next general elections. Johnson's victory over Corbyn is good news for India for many reasons.
Boris Johnson is back as British Prime Minister with a thumping majority, possibly the biggest since Margaret Thatcher. Johnson defeated his nearest rival and Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn, who has now announced that he will not lead his party in the next general elections. Johnson’s victory over Corbyn is good news for India for many reasons. Both British leaders have a stark difference in the way they view India and its global positioning. While Boris has been very accommodative vis-a-vis India, Corbyn has taken a very hostile position against New Delhi.
Here are some issues on the basis of which India would be happy with Boris returning as British Prime Minister.
Johnson is committed to implementing Brexit, a move that is likely to change Indo-UK trade relations. Explaining why Johnson’s win is a positive development for India, former Indian diplomat Lalit Mansingh says: “The Conservatives have been putting across to India that if Brexit happens, they will be free from the European laws and can have special trading arrangements with India. New Delhi can have a special treaty and tariff arrangements with the UK, which will be good for India’s exports and joint ventures. These are the impressions that it may be better for India after Brexit.” He, however, said that it remains to be seen how negotiations take place after Brexit actually happens.
Mansingh, who has served as India’s High Commissioner to the UK from 1998–99, says that on the economic front, the disappointment is that Indo-UK trade has not done so well in recent years. “But the hope is that if Britain gets rid of European laws, it will have more flexibility in striking a good free trade deal with India. It will be better for India if Britain gets out of the EU because European trade rules are very restrictive, this is the reason why for almost eight years India has tried to negotiate free trade agreement but it hasn’t succeeded yet,” he adds. The Indian diplomat further says that Britain is one of the world’s most important financial centres. “In terms of our currency trade, investment and banking, it will be good to have stronger relations with Britain.”
UK on Article 370
After India scrapped special status to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370, the United Kingdom chose to remain silent knowing fully well that it was an internal matter. UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab said that he had spoken to External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and took clarity on the situation in Kashmir. He, however, said that the UK was concerned about the situation in the Valley and called for peace and calm. Compare this with Jeremy Corbyn’s hardened stand and antagonistic move of passing a resolution.
Corbyn’s party passed a resolution seeking “international intervention in Kashmir and a call for UN led-referendum”. The resolution condemned India’s move and called on the party to “clearly and vocally support the Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination and for international observers to be sent to the region immediately”. All this happened under the leadership of Corbyn.
He was not done yet. Corbyn again brought back Kashmir in his manifesto. Labour party stated that it would mediate in what it calls one of the world’s most disputed territories. Every stand that Corbyn took in the context of Kashmir or Article 370 went contrary to India’s longheld stand internationally on these matters. All this backfired in the election as the influential Indian diaspora expressed “deep dismay” over the position taken by Corbyn and threatened to cut all ties with his Labour Party.
Boris backs India
Following India’s move on Kashmir, there were some orchestrated protests against India and its High Commission in London. The British government was strongly criticised for allowing Pakistan-backed forces to build anti-India sentiments. Responding to New Delhi’s concern, Boris made it clear that he was not ‘anti-Hindu’ and rejected ‘anti-India’ sentiments in the UK. Recently in an interview to India Today, the British Prime Minister said that his administration will protect the Indian community in the UK. “It is very important that we don’t import into this country the prejudices, discrimination and anxieties that you see emerging from conflicts and disputes around the world,” Johnson told India Today. Jeremy Corbyn made no such assurance to India or its people in his country.
Boris Johnson maintains good relations with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Just before going to polls, the Conservative party leader visited a Hindu temple to woo the India diaspora and made an important remark about the Indian Prime Minister: “I know Prime Minister Modi is building a new India. And, we in the UK government will support him fully in his endeavour.” Soon after the results were announced on Friday, Prime Minister Modi congratulated Boris for his return with a thumping majority. “I wish him the best and look forward to working together for closer India-UK ties,” he said.
Corbyn, on the other hand, has had no pleasantry exchanges with Modi in the recent past. The socialist leader had last met Modi in 2015. Corbyn has also a very different world view from that of Modi. The relationship between the two leaders went sour after Corbyn met a Congress delegation over Article 370 and discussed alleged human rights violations in Kashmir.
India’s representation in Britain
With Boris back at the helm, India will now have a better representation in the UK. Lalit Mansingh says that Boris has many influential ministers in his cabinet. “There will be a fairly strong representation of British Indians in the new cabinet of Boris Johnson — apart from Preeti Patel, there will be other ministers with good portfolios,” adds.
Boris backs Indian students
Boris has a liberal approach when it comes to education in the UK. His government recently announced a new two-year post-study work visa for students, a move that addressed a long-standing demand to boost Indian student numbers at select British universities. According to the latest report, there has been a 63 per cent increase in the number of visas issued to Indians for study in the UK in just one year.