Foreign Secretary's speech at Raisina Dialogue, New Delhi

The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson's keynote address at the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi, India.

Boris Johnson, Raisina Dialogue - New Delhi

Good afternoon.

It’s a great honour to be speaking here at the second Raisina Dialogue and fantastic to be back in India.

I have come on several official trips now as well as various family weddings and we always try to remember to bring something for our Sikh relatives who live in both Delhi and Mumbai can you guess what it is; that’s right – we tend to bring a bottle of whisky, Black Label whisky to add to the astonishing 1.5 billion litres of whisky that are consumed every year in this country and why do we bring a bottle of scotch – to our relatives in Mumbai and Delhi - normally black label though I have just bought something called green label.

I hope it isn’t crème de menthe the reason my friends is that this wonderful country still sets a tariff of 150 per cent on whisky imports and I believe this matters.

Though I have no particular desire to attack Indian whisky tariffs. I think the time has come to stick up for free trade to make the case once again for the immense benefits of a globalised economy where we learn from each other and trade freely with each other and that case needs setting out here now and I believe I am perhaps the man to do it because I belong to a select group of people who are not always approved of by the global elites.

In the pages of good left liberal papers I am denounced as…wait for it…a populist because I was involved in a movement opposed to what I see as the undemocratic nature of the EU, and we were successful and so I am bracketed with various other leaders around the world who are said to be populist people who come to power on the tide of a sort of pitchfork wielding rebellion against the conceit of the ruling classes and so I want to stick up not for the populists, they can take care of themselves - we populists have pretty thick skins. I want to stick up for those who vote for them because they aren’t bad people.

They may feel worried about the security of the world, or about terrorism. They feel that they aren’t allowed to hold widespread opinions, and that they are being sneered and disapproved of. They look at this great glittering globalised economy and they see some people getting very rich indeed and they wonder why their own families aren’t keeping pace and they fear that they will be the first generation not be overtaken, in prosperity, by their own children, and so I say that these people should not be dismissed, or patronized, but nor should we draw the wrong conclusions, about the wave of populism.

The answer is not to put up barriers or weaken trading systems the answer is to give them jobs and a sense of respect and to show how trade can work for both sides how fair exchange benefits everyone is not zero sum.

The answer is for great nations such as India and Britain to tackle their concerns together not to go back to the world of the 1930s with strong men in power everywhere with autarkic and beggar thy neighbour policies of tariffs and other barriers to trade.

You may remember Lord Copper of the Beast, in Evelyn Waugh’s satirical novel scoop, published in 1936 who personally briefs a young reporter about his world view, and the coverage he wants to see. “The policy of the Beast is for strong, mutually antagonistic governments everywhere,” he says.

Well, that is not my policy, and it is not our policy. We believe still in military cooperating in the UK, and we believe in NATO as the cornerstone of our defence and we are one of the few countries in the alliance to meet the target of spending two per cent of our GDP and we have shown our commitment to our collective security in sending a battalion to Estonia as part of Nato’s enhanced forward presence.

We support the UN in holding to account the regimes of such men as Bashar al Asad and by the way we were the first P5 country to call for India to join the Security Council as well as the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

Like India we know the threats of terrorism - and I can tell you that some of my wife’s family were there that night in Mumbai in 2008 when the appalling attacks took place - and we are already working together to tackle those threats with ever greater intelligence sharing and we have some of the most formidable intelligence capabilities in the world; and we have no inhibitions in sharing our most advanced technology with India.

Take the Hawk jet trainer – a world beating aircraft, designed and made in Bangalore by Hindustan aeronautics, in alliance with BAe systems; and I know Mr Jaishankar said this morning, he thought Europe was in danger of shrinking from the world. I am here to tell you in the nick of time, this is not the UK’s ambition.

We have reach, we have just decided to restore our military presence east of Suez with a £3 bn commitment over ten years and a naval support facility in Bahrain We have a commitment to the whole world.

The Royal Air Force has just sent Typhoon fighters to Japan and South Korea on Exercise Eastern Venture, showing that Britain remains one of a handful of countries able to deploy air power 7,000 miles from our shores.

We have ambition. Our Strategic Defence and Security Review makes clear that the Royal Navy’s new aircraft carriers will be present in Asian waters.

The Five Power Defence Arrangement – which joins Britain with Malaysia, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand – remains the only permanent and multilateral defence pact in Asia.

Twice a year, British forces exercise alongside our allies in South-East Asia.

And as our naval strength increases in the next ten years, including two new aircraft carriers, we will be able to make a bigger contribution. In the Indian Ocean, we have a joint UK-US facility on Diego Garcia – an asset that is vital for our operations in the region.

We’re also a member of the UN Command on the Korean Peninsula; while in Brunei we have a deployable garrison of British Gurkhas.

And like this country we have our principles, a similar approach to the world.

When it comes to the tensions in the South China Sea. We are in favour of the rules based order. Britain takes no position on the merits of the competing claims.

But we do take a view on how they are pursued.

We oppose the militarisation of the South China Sea and we urge all parties to respect freedom of navigation and settle their disputes peacefully in accordance with international law.

We regard last year’s ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague as binding on both China and the Philippines.

Indeed, may I respectfully say to our Indian friends that we believe in respecting all such judgments as binding.

We believe India can be a vital force for stability in this region, the keystone of a giant natural arch, created by the Indian ocean running from Perth in the east to Cape Town in the west.

This is the vast hinterland in which India rightly seeks to influence events and we support Prime Minister Modi in his ambition for India to rejoin the neighbouring geographies. Imagine how wonderful it would be if the nations of south Asia, Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, could break down the barriers of mistrust and make the most of their economic opportunities.

And that is why security matters. Because without trust between countries; without freedom of the sea lanes, 25% of world trade goes through the Straits of Malacca; without a rules based international order, we will find our world reverting to that uncertainty of the 1930s.

When trade declined and we know the consequences of this, and it is declining, as a share of GDP, for the first time since the 1990s, and that is partly why I am so excited by the opportunities presented to the UK today. Because as our Prime Minister Theresa May said yesterday, we believe we can strike a new and healthy relationship with the European Union, supportive of the EU.

And as I have said before, we can be outside the main body of the cathedral, but still be a flying buttress, based on free trade and intergovernmental cooperation but allowing us, for the first time in 44 years, to campaign for free trade not just because it is in Britain’s interest but because it has lifted billions out of poverty in the last 50 years and has been the single greatest engine of human progress and that is because free trade and economic interpenetration are of massive mutual benefit and it is a cliché but it is true that Britain and India achieve together what they might never manage to pull off individually.

It is an astonishing fact that India invests more in the UK than it invests in the rest of the EU put together. I need hardly tell you that the biggest manufacturing employer in Britain is an Indian company, which makes beautiful Jaguars in Castle Bromwich I in the West Midlands, and then sells them back to India.

You may have heard that curry restaurants in Britain manage to employ more people than the ship-building, coal mining and steel industries combined, which may explain the struggle that some Britons now have with their waistline.

But I don’t want you to think we are just sitting around crunching poppadoms. We Brits are here too. There are four JCB factories here in India. We have British scientists teaming up with Indian counterparts to fight superbugs.

One in 20 private sector jobs in India is in a UK-owned company, and our trade is growing by 3 per cent a year. But when you consider that this is a country where there are 800 m people under the age of 35 you can see the scale of the opportunity because the population of Ireland is less than 4 million and Britain somehow does more trade with Ireland than with the whole of India.

Prime Minister Modi has laid out an exciting plan for an $830bn infrastructure plan and it is time for British engineers and surveyors and planners and consultants and architects and lawyers and bankers, and I hope they are here today, to step up to the plate and o take part in this incredible development and break down these barriers.

And that is why the time is coming when we need to turbo charge this relationship with a new free trade deal. We can’t negotiate it now. But we can sketch it out in pencil.

And so let us go back to the whisky with which I began.

It is an extraordinary fact that no-one can deny, that even though Scotland is incontestably the home and progenitor of Scotch, the only place in the world where the water trickles through the peaty glen in exactly the right way; to turn into liquid fire even though whisky is itself a Gaelic word uisge beatha. Does anyone know what it means? H2o – water of life.

The total share of Scotch whisky – the authentic whisky – in the Indian market, the biggest single market in the world, is something like 4 per cent netting the UK only £80m a year in exports.

Now imagine if we could just double or treble that – by removing those pesky tariffs and giving the Indian consumer more money to spend on other things to a mere 8 per cent. Think of the boost to the morale of the Indian whisky drinker and the boost to Scottish industry.

And then think how wonderful systematically it would be if we could have zero tariffs on Indian products such as those electric cars or buses that we are now seeing on the streets of London.

This is not the time to put up walls and barriers.

This is the time to tear these barriers down.

We may be leaving the EU, and we may be taking back control of our borders. But my Indian friends, that does not mean we want to haul up the drawbridge or deter Indian talent from our country.

I am proud to say that the UK economy, the fastest growing major economy in Europe, is the most diverse on earth.

With the biggest tech sector in our hemisphere; with the biggest banking sector – indeed 40 per cent of all foreign exchange transactions take place in London. More dollars are bought and sold in London than in New York.

The most visited museums in the world, in fact there are more visitors to the British Museum than to some EU countries, which I won’t name, such is my diplomatic finesse.

We have the best universities in the world – Cambridge alone has produced more Nobel prize winners than every university in China and Russia added together and multiplied by two.

Of the kings, queens, presidents and prime ministers of the world, 1 in 7 was educated in Britain, and that is a ratio we want to keep, and we are improving on.

There are more Chinese students than any other city in the world (other than China, which clearly has a lot) and why do they come because we welcome talent.

And it is by being open, and by breaking down barriers that we will in the long term create the good jobs, and good incomes, that offer real hope and comfort to our electors.

And so let’s work together. Not to ignore or condemn the voices of populism, but to understand and address their concerns Britain and India are united by our values, and by our approach to the problems of the world.

And it is by working together to improve our security that we will allow the freedom and openness that will drive our prosperity.

Published 18 January 2017