Common interests

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Common interests

Modi must recalibrate India-UK ties and leverage Commonwealth in the wake of Brexit

The Commonwealth is getting good Press nowadays. First, there's been the very promising Indian showing at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia, and on Tuesday Prime Minister Narendra Modi lands in London for a series of bilateral meetings with the British leadership before attending the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) scheduled for April 18-20. That this will be the last CHOGM, which is held every two years, hosted by Queen Elizabeth II who has ruled out long-distance travel in the future and wrote a warm, personal letter to the Indian Prime Minister urging him to attend, adds a whiff of nostalgia for those still so enamoured. But it is hard geopolitical realities that have taken Modi to Britain, a country where the deeply entrenched and viciously illiberal Multiculturalist-Mullah-Marxist triad has run a campaign of calumny against him in the recent past and is likely to continue trolling him and the BJP online as well as get up some manner of protests on the ground given India is heading into a General Election in less than a year. For, New Delhi's strategic interests have to be redefined both with Britain and with London's rediscovered interest in the Commonwealth post-Brexit.

Derided for the past few decades as a talking shop and networking opportunity for the anglicised elite of post-colonial nation-states which emerged from the detritus of the British Empire, CHOGM 2018 is already being distracted by speculation over whether Prince Charles will succeed his mother in the largely ceremonial role as Head of the Commonwealth and what India's (and other prominent member-states') stand on the issue will be. In fact, it is the Commonwealth Trade Review released earlier this week which should be preoccupation of those looking at leveraging the Commonwealth as an alliance that has the potential to develop economic heft. It is not unimportant that between 2014 and 2016, India was the highest recipient of greenfield foreign direct investment (FDI) from within the Commonwealth. Bodies operating under the aegis of the organisation's umbrella such as the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council too need to enhance capacity-building going forward.

But what is of crucial import is the new thinking emerging in the United Kingdom post-Brexit around ties with non-European Union nation-states and/or blocs, which needs to be leveraged by India in its efforts to efforts ensure all its eggs are not in the same strategic basket. A shared albeit colonial past including legal, administrative and political structures not to mention the English language are all factors in play. If we are hardnosed enough about it, a win-win for Indo-British collaboration bilaterally can be extended to the two countries becoming the driving force behind a trade and investment centred Commonwealth too.

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