UK  Report classified India among ‘difficult four’ countries

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Synopsis: The report released by the Royal Institute of International Affairs (UK) recommends an arm’s length relationship with India due to rise of religious intolerance. 

Back ground 

  • Recently, the Royal Institute of International Affairs (UK) have proposed a blueprint titled “Global Britain, Global Broker”, for Britain’s future foreign policy after Brexit. 
  • As a matter of concern for India, the report has paid less attention to India’s role in the futuristic vision of a “Global Britain”. 
  • The report has classified India as one of the “difficult four” countries along with Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. India will be counted among the UK’s “rivals” or “awkward counterparts”. 

What was the reason given in the report for classifying India as one of the “difficult four” countries? 

The report highlights two major issues for that 

  • First, according to the report the rise of Hindu nationalism in India is weakening the rights of Muslims and other minority religious groups. 
  • This rise in intolerant majoritarianism is damaging the vision of a secular, democratic India envisioned by Nehru. 
  • Second, the report labels India as half-hearted supporter of liberal democracy and a country with mixed approaches to human rights abuses. 

Why the report’s criticism towards India is meaningless? 

Criticism of India over growing religious intolerance and the suppression of critique and dissent is not a surprise. Most of the diplomats from various countries have consented regarding this. For example, the Canada has voiced against the Kashmir internet shut down.  

But second criticism is particularly pointless. Despite being the world’s largest democracy, labelling India as a half-hearted supporter of liberal principles and institutions abroad is not correct, because, 

  • India for long been unwilling to step up on the global stage to the responsibilities of “committed democracies” due to uneven playing field in today’s international order. 
  • The 21st century Global order produces unevenly distributed rights, obligations, and burdens for post-colonial nations and the principle of equality and sovereignty of states still remains as a myth. 
  • Even today, the post-colonial states such as India, do not enjoy full political and economic independence on how they make decisions at home, nor in their efforts to shape the agendas of international institutions. 

Thus, 2nd criticism of India can be precisely summarised in the words of Former Indian foreign secretary and national security advisor Shivashankar Menon. He said, “Encouragement by western international partners for India to “behave responsibly” usually means doing what they would like us to do”. 

 What is the way forward for India? 

  • First, India need not look into the issue of UK distancing from India too seriously. No nation today can move forward without factoring in India. Even the report has highlighted this. 
  • Second, India’s high-profile international activity in the next 2 years as elected member of the UN Security Council and as host of the 2023 G20 Summit should be effectively used to leverage India’s positions of influence in the international sphere.  
  • Third, India needs to build on the critical and normative resources to inspire greater equality, legitimacy and inclusivity in the international sphere.  





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