UK/India relations: Foreign Secretary's interview with Channel 4
This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Channel 4 interviewed Foreign Secretary, William Hague, on the UK’s relationship with India.
**Jon Snow (JS): **Earlier I spoke to the Foreign Secretary William Hague who is in New Delhi and began by asking him whether this is a final rite of passage for the UK’s relationship with India from Empire to trading partners.
William Hague (WH): Well certainly it’s very different from Empire, yeah the, this is Britain connecting afresh actually across the world. It’s very, very important to do this for future opportunities, for the employment of British people years in to the future, and there’s tremendous enthusiasm here in India across education, across science, across the commercial world as well as in the political world, for us to expand cooperation in, in so many ways.
JS: Do, do you feel that Indians are excited to meet you, I mean is there a sense that they want to see you or, or are you just sort of in a great queue of other nations who are all equally keen to bang on the door?
WH: Well there are two things they are excited about this. One is the consistency of it. David Cameron came here four years ago as Leader of the Opposition and said then that we wanted to form this special relationship with India and they appreciate enormously that so early in the life of a new Government we have set about this with such energy. And the second thing they appreciate is that we’ve come in such numbers, it has made an impact, and not just in the British media but hugely so in the Indian media as well, so I think we’re going about that in the right way. And actually there’s a third thing that they appreciate which is it, it means something in reality, you know we are working together on counter terrorism, we have, the Prime Minister has signed the sales agreement for the Hawk aircraft.
JS: On the other hand the whole question of immigration with the Indian Sub Continent as a whole has been hugely problematical over many years and of course now there is a new dynamic in that the Coalition Government does want to cap the numbers. It’s not a great moment to be doing that if that’s the new relationship we’re trying to build.
WH: Well we’re doing that in consultation with countries across the world, including with India, the, the Government of India will be able to make its own responses to that consultation, and I think, you know, they understand, I’ve explained in, in interviews on Indian television today that the United States has strict limits on immigration, Australia has strict limits on immigration. Of course the United Kingdom is going to do that, but we’re going to do it in a way which still encourages business people to come through, we’re going to find the way to make sure that students can still study in the United Kingdom.
**JS: **And, and are you and your colleague Vince Cable singing from the same hymn sheet on this matter?
**WH: **Yes the, the, the cap on immigration is a part of the coalition agreement. I was there when it was written down and negotiated; I know it very well. So that, that is part of the coalition agreement but yes we will consult on the details.
JS: Well that, that’s the key, you, you are sure that at the end of this, these deliberations it real, really will be possible for a, a British firm operating in Britain to secure for example highly skilled IT technicians from Mumbai without any immigra, immigration hindrance?
WH: Well I’m not, you’re asking me there a very specific question with a specific situation saying well …
JS: It’s the sort of problem that could throw itself up isn’t it? There is a, a particularly good resource of skilled technicians available in India who we could do with.
WH: That is absolutely right and of course in having a point system we will be prizing particularly highly the skills that we need in the United Kingdom. Many of those skills yes are here in India so they are going to do very well in any points immigration system.
JS: Of necessity for any British Foreign Secretary to be in India the question of Pakistan comes up and the question of terrorism too, and I think the Prime Minister effectively this morning kind of did suggest that Pakistan, whatever its good intentions, is still in some form sponsoring terrorism in Afghanistan.
WH: Well no he, he wasn’t saying that but he was saying that we look to Pakistan, as we would look to any country, to fight terrorism in all its forms. I think what he said was, was absolutely correct; Pakistan has made great progress in many ways in fighting terrorism and there have been terrible terrorist outrages in Pakistan, as of course there have been here in, in India, we all remember what happened at Mumbai. But we do look to countries to make sure we’re fighting terrorism at every opportunity and in every form.
JS: But I think that the sense he left in his radio interview this morning was that Pakistan is still looking both ways in some sense.
WH: He wasn’t talking about the Pakistan Government but things going on within Pakistan that cause terrorism elsewhere, and so that, that is a very important distinction from actually accusing the Pakistani Government of doing something. Have there been terrorist incidents which have had some connection with, with events in Pakistan? Well yes, of course there have been, that is widely acknowledged, and so yes we look to all the authorities in Pakistan to do everything they can to combat that now and in the future, and as I’ve mentioned we’re working very closely with India on counter terrorism and, and we will work with all nations across the world to counter this scourge.
JS: Foreign Secretary William Hague talking to me from Delhi earlier.