Monday, May 17, 2010

Help With That Heavy Lifting

Britain to maintain ambitious policy toward India

As Prime Minister David Cameron and his Tory/Lib Dem coalition government continue preparing to assume office, many of Britain's allies continue to wonder what this transition will mean for them.

At least as it pertains to India, the answer seems as if it will be "not much".

Previous Labour governments had adopted ambitious policies in relation to India, and incoming Foreign Secretary William Hague will continue the same.

On many levels, there's good reason for this. India's ongoing conflict with Pakistan is one of the dominant dynamics within the Indo-Pakistani region, and thus is extremely important to the war in Afghanistan.

Hague has indicated that his government will continue to work with India and Pakistan to moderate tensions surrounding Kashmir, allowing Pakistan to secure its border with Afghanistan, and secure the bordering regions of Pakistan itself.

Hague will seemingly need to practice more tact in regards to the Kashmir issue than did his predecessor, David Miliband, who stoked Indian anger when he suggested that Kashmir lent fire to the rhetoric used to recruit footsoldiers for terrorist attacks on India.

This is, of course, actually true. Hague will have to walk a very careful path in speaking straightly and realistically about the state of strategic affairs in the Indo-Pakistani region and maintaining diplomatic candor.

Nuclear proliferation between India and Pakistan will make such a task very difficult. In fact, it's very unlikely that Britain would be able to accomplish it alone.

It needs help from its natural allies: from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and whatever African members of the Commonwealth of Nations that are able to contribute to a peacekeeping mission in Kashmir, and to a mission diplomacy initiative between India and Pakistan to moderate a detente.

There are more reasons for Britain and Canada to invest such efforts in India than merely security. Both countries are prolific investors in India -- a peace dividend between India and Pakistan would also be very good for business.

In investing time and effort in its relations with India, Hague would merely be making good on the promise made by Prime Minister Cameron long prior to his election.

The sorry state of Pakistan -- which should be a priority for the Commonwealth, only barely ahead of the Sudan and Sri Lanka -- is one that cannot be solved without attention to India. Nor can it be solved without help from Britain's natural allies.

Britain will need help with its heavy lifting. It's time to start re-building the Commonwealth so it can provide it.

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