India on the world stage

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne spoke at the Spectator Anglo-Indian Summit 2011 on 28 June.

I am delighted to be here and take part in this event, and pleased to follow the address by my colleague the Business Secretary earlier this morning.

Both of us are determined to follow through on the ambitious vision for UK-India relations set out by the Prime Minister on his visit to India last July.

It is almost 12 months since that speech in Bangalore, and across Government we have worked hard to deliver a stronger, wider, deeper relationship with India. Not least through the significant increase in ministerial visits in both directions.

I will be in New Delhi and Kolkata next week and look forward to having talks with my counterparts on a host of issues - from migration, visas and people-to-people exchanges to the subject of today’s theme, the growing role of India on the world’s stage.

It’s a theme we’ve already begun to plan for. The Foreign Secretary recently announced a substantial reinvigoration of our diplomatic network overseas to make it ready for the 21st century and to expand our connections with the emerging powers of the world. Our representation in India will be bolstered by 30 additional staff, one of the biggest single increases in this significant reshaping of the FCO’s overseas presence.

I am convinced that this is the right thing to do with our diplomatic resources. That no one will criticise us in twenty years time for having overestimated the rise of Emerging Powers such as India.

But strengthening the bilateral relationship is not the business of governments alone.
It requires building people-to-people links as well. Across industry, business, science, education, culture and sport.

That is why, on his visit to India, the Prime Minister took a large delegation from the private sector, as well as a number of cultural and sporting icons.

Why today’s audience and speakers are drawn from a range of sectors.

And why I personally look forward in just a few weeks time, after my first Ministerial visit to India, to welcoming the Indian cricket team to Taunton, in the constituency I represent, as they play the first match of their tour, against Somerset.
India on the world stage

The Business Secretary spoke earlier about investing in each other’s futures. And much of the discussion today is rightly focussing on doing business in India.
The economic dimension is of course an important element of the UK-Indian relationship.
But as India’s economic power grows, so too will both its influence on the world stage and, crucially, others’ expectations of it.

As the Minister in the Foreign Office responsible for Asia and the Emerging Powers, I want to share with you today some thoughts about what that means for India, for the world, and for the UK’s foreign policy.

The starting proposition for any discussion about India’s role in the world is its inexorable rise to the status of a global power.

India has always had a strong global brand: today it is Bollywood; Incredible India; the superstars in their cricket team.

But the brand of today is backed up by icons from India’s long history -from Gandhi in the last century to the great Moghul emperor Akbar in the 16th century and stretching even further back to Ashoka in the 3rd century BC.

All of whom exemplified one of the themes to which I will return in my remarks today, because I think it is so crucial to our future and the future of the 21st century world.
Not just of soft power or hard power, but the power of values - of tolerance, liberty and freedom of expression.

The brand of the India of tomorrow has a great opportunity: not only to exemplify these principles but to propagate them.

I welcome that. Because despite its soft power assets, India has not always had the global role commensurate with its size.

This is now changing. India will soon be a world economic superpower, forecast to be the world’s 3rd largest economy in 25 years, which will be around the same time it overtakes China to become the world’s largest population, with one in five people in the world being Indian.

But it’s about more than economic statistics, important as these are.

Alongside its galloping economic growth are the political statistics of a robust democracy comprising the world’s largest electorate of 700 million voters. The Indian media scene is vibrant and growing, with over 70,000 registered newspapers and some 1,400 TV stations. Internet penetration is growing exponentially too, with some 100 million Indians on-line at the end of 2010, including more than 23 million Facebook users.

In tandem, India’s burgeoning economic strength and commitment to political pluralism sets its rise to great power status not only on an inexorable, but, crucially, also a sustainable path.

India and Britain in the 21st Century World

I’m pretty sure there is no one in this audience who will disagree with my first premise: that India is set to be one of the great diplomatic and global powers of this century and beyond.

What I’d like to explore a bit further, and in the Q & A, is what that means for our policies, and India’s, in our efforts to shape the 21st century world together.
To underpin our engagement with India we need to understand what drives India’s engagement with us.

To forge a successful partnership we must recognise and respond to India’s interests and ambitions.

Now I won’t presume to tell you what India’s foreign policy is. Foreign Secretary Rao, whom I met just before coming here this morning, gave a speech on India’s Foreign Policy priorities yesterday at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, which sets this out.

But I do want to make the case that, more often than not, India’s and Britain’s approaches intersect as we pursue our shared interests.

What are those interests?

The Coalition programme and the Foreign Secretary’s speeches have clearly set out ours, identifying three key themes: prosperity, security and the promotion of our core values.

How do they match with India’s?

To take these interests in turn.


Firstly, as with the UK and indeed with most countries, India’s foreign policy is focused on creating the right conditions to continue its economic development.

To this end, India has developed relations with all the major world economies, from China and the US, to regional groupings such as the European Union, the Gulf and increasingly in Africa. Indian officials have made it clear that they will not be “dovetailed” into alliance-type relationships with a select few world powers.

This approach is similar to our own prosperity agenda, which the Foreign Secretary has made clear should make economic objectives a central aspect of our international bilateral engagement with all countries.

As Vince has said, both India and the UK see open markets and increased global trade as the path to economic growth and growing prosperity for our citizens.

That may seem a self-evident truth. But for many parts of the world, it is actually a radical concept.

A principle which is transforming India after years of protectionism.

One which Britain has fought hard for internationally.

I am delighted that we are doing so, and to see the common ground between our governments on this issue, which enables us to work together bilaterally and in international fora for shared prosperity. It is essential that we continue to do so.


Economic growth is vital for stability. But to happen, it also requires stability.

And this leads me onto the second priority where our countries are increasingly working together: security.

In an interconnected world, where threats are increasingly transnational in nature, it is imperative that countries cooperate to meet the security challenges we face.

Recognising this, our two countries have stepped up our counter-terrorism partnership.

Our close co-operation around last year’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi was a good example and represented a significant security success.

Our resolve in the face of terrorism extends to our shared interests in Afghanistan, where we are working hard to establish a secure, free country that does not pose a threat to our national security. India is a significant contributor to the international effort in Afghanistan and a valued partner.

We also share the same goal to combat piracy. The Indian Navy, alongside British vessels, is deployed to the Gulf of Aden and is one of the founding members of the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia.

Indeed, the ties between our armed services are on a sharp upward trajectory.

The past twelve months have seen visits to India by the chiefs of all three UK services and to the UK by the senior Indian civilians in the Defence Ministry.

There have been several joint exercises involving our armies, navies and air forces.
And our already strong defence industrial partnership will move to a significantly more strategic level if the Eurofighter Typhoon is selected to meet the Indian Air Force’s requirement for a medium multi-role combat fighter jet.

More broadly, India’s determination to contribute to global security is demonstrated by its enduring role in U.N. peacekeeping, with more than 100,000 Indian troops having served in U.N. missions during the past 50 years.

Today, India has over 8,500 peacekeepers in the field, making it the third largest national contributor.

Part of India’s approach to global security is a firm belief that the multilateral institutions charged with maintaining peace and stability should be reformed to reflect new global realities.

The UK supports these calls for reform.

I have little doubt that in the future we will see a UN Security Council becoming more representative of the world it seeks to protect.

We are pleased that India is a non-permanent member of the Security Council for 2011 and 2012 and, as you know, we support India’s permanent membership on the Council.


So we have a shared agenda on both prosperity and security. I believe we have likewise on the other Coalition government’s overseas priority - our values.
I am convinced that the basis for successful UK-Indian cooperation towards security and prosperity is a shared concept of what success looks like in the 21st century world.

Both our countries value pluralism and tolerance.

We share a liberal outlook on the world, both economically and politically.

We want to see a 21st century world which exemplifies those principles: which promotes free trade but also the wider freedoms which sustain it.

This is why India’s emergence as a global power is something that we in Britain should celebrate.

A democratic, prosperous and plural India can be a powerful international role model.

India’s success as - at the same time - a thriving democracy and a growing economy already serves as an example for its neighbourhood and an inspiration to the wider world.

But its rise to global prominence offers the chance to promote those values even further.

People now look to India as an emerging, or re-emerging power.

It is a truism that with power come responsibilities. But no less important, with power also come expectations.

As India takes its rightful role on the world stage, others will look to it not only to exercise its responsibilities as an economic and democratic leviathan, but also to show leadership in both these areas.

I believe this presents India with an opportunity.

Its history of non-alignment means that it can promote liberal principles of pluralism and tolerance without being accused of advancing Western hegemony.

Indeed, it can be a model of those principles precisely because it has so successfully made the fusion of its own essential characteristics and of what some might wrongly term Western values, but which I would argue are universal ones.

Values of tolerance, liberty and diversity, which - to return to my starting point - are also part of Brand India.

So India on the world stage means not only a global superpower, but also a unique beacon of democratic values.

Not only will it have the world’s biggest population and probably its highest rate of growth. I believe that it will also have the opportunity to be one of the inspiring models of the benefits of democracy, freedom of expression and rule of law.

And in the 21st century, where I am convinced that the struggle for such values will be the defining feature, that is a very good place to be. And it is an agenda on which we can work together.

A final, practical thought in this respect.

I mentioned earlier the network shift that Britain is undertaking to ensure that we are represented where we need to be in an increasingly multipolar world. This involves increasing the numbers of staff we have overseas, working for Britain’s prosperity and security.

Other countries are similarly adapting their diplomatic networks. For example, it is well known that Brazil and Turkey have, in recent years, opened new embassies and increased the number of diplomats they send overseas. Brazil now has more missions in Africa than Britain.

As both these countries foresee assuming larger global roles, they are equipping themselves with the means to make an impact in many different countries.
Now in contrast I am told that India only has about 660 diplomats, about as many as New Zealand.

But for India to fulfil its global ambitions, and the expectations that come with its emerging status, having the necessary means will be important. We want to be able to share analysis in country with our Indian partners, and work together for common causes, particularly to promote the values that we share.

India’s position on the UN Security Council for the next two years gives it a chance to take centre stage as a responsible and effective member of the international community. We would welcome broader Indian diplomatic representation in the longer term, so that we can deepen our exchanges in the many countries across the world where the attention of the international community, and the UNSC in particular, is likely to focus


I have sketched out briefly my belief that India’s global role gives us strong grounds for optimism.

Only India can decide its future trajectory.

But it is firmly in our national interest to engage with India as energetically and honestly as we can as it asserts itself on the world stage. Our shared interests and values make us natural partners, and as a rising world power India has the potential to extend prosperity, security and democratic values on a huge scale.