India's Brexit opportunity: Can claim UN Security Council seat

India has wasted years lobbying politely to take its rightful place at the table, but it can now make an irrefutable moral and political case to supplant Britain.

 |  5-minute read |   29-03-2017
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Prime Minister Theresa May will finally sign Article 50, the legal mechanism that will trigger the negotiations for Britain's exit from the European Union.

In less than 80 years, Britain will have mutated from being the centre of the world's first global empire, to a respected embedded member of the richest trading block in history, to an exposed and isolated nation unprotected - for the first time in centuries - by an enmeshment within a powerful collective of colonies or other states.

The jungle-reality of geopolitics will not be kind to her. Stray from the herd, she will be there for the taking. For India, Brexit represents a golden opportunity to muscle itself into the front-rank of nations at the expense of a UK that has no valid claim to be there.

What business, for instance, does Britain, a country of less than 70-million people - that will be much diminished when, as looks likely, Scotland and Northern Ireland secede - have in occupying a permanent seat in the UN Security Council, while India, home to over half the democratic world, does not?

France can argue that it represents the EU at the UNSC: a position that will only grow stronger as the EU politically consolidates, once the obstructing presence of the British is gone. The UK can argue no such thing.

India has wasted years lobbying politely to take its rightful place at the table, but it can now make an irrefutable moral and political case to supplant Britain. The world, I think, would happily agree: developing nations would appreciate a permanent member that shares and understands their challenges and concerns, while rich ones - irate Europeans, especially - would want the world's fastest growing economy, that will soon also be the world's largest market, to have an appropriate voice.

Nothing would more immediately enhance the efficacy of the United Nations than to have the British - widely distrusted as American lackeys - replaced on the Security Council by India.

Many of the solutions to the most pressing problems the world faces - from water-scarcity, to climate change and population growth - will be found and applied in India. Britain's role in these matters will be either marginal or non-existent. It simply has no business being privileged over India at the UN.

The US will see the advantage in having India there rather than a Britain that can no longer pretend it is a bridge between America and Europe, because India is definitely part of the Sino-Indo-US triangle that will dominate Asia and increasingly influence the world.

While the US and India are not formal allies, their relationship is crucial and will increasingly benefit both. The same is true of India's relationship with China. Of the three states, India is the one that does not seek hegemony: its role as a stabiliser in Asian politics is essential.

This importance of India to the region and the world must be recognised: the Security Council ought to be Asia-centric anyway, given that is where most of mankind and the bulk of its economy exists. Britain's permanent seat insults not just global reality but the world's intelligence.

A similar attitude can be taken with other institutions. India, out of a sense of dignity, should leave the Commonwealth and create an alternative, or at least force its reinvention into something more relevant and aligned with its interests.

may-embed_032817022530.jpg The US will see the advantage in having India there rather than a Britain that can no longer pretend it is a bridge between America and Europe. Photo: Reuters

Presently, it is nothing but a reminder of British imperialism, but, unlike the UN, it is one body in which India's position is strong, based on an enormous store of trust and goodwill, not least for its principled insistence on sanctions against South Africa's apartheid regime - sanctions that, of course, the British opposed.

Africa and India would gain much from a Commonwealth that is organised around their mutual development. Unlike the British, who benefit from exploiting fractured and disunited African states, India's interests are served by a strong, economically integrated Africa that is another vast trading block with which it can do business, as the two continents share solutions to their very similar challenges and ambitions. An India-led Commonwealth would give Africans a far stronger voice in Asia and the broader world.

And as Canada and Australia continue to demographically and economically integrate into Asia, their relationship with India will only grow and deepen. It is in every major member state's interests, other than the UK's, to see the Commonwealth oriented around India.

The European Union is speeding up negotiations with India for a free-trade deal, now the British will not be around to stymie the process with their inane objections to Indian immigrants. With its $18 trillion economy and 450 million population, the EU is clearly a better long-term partner for India, and nothing will be gained by cosying up to the UK as Europe punishes it in Brexit negotiations to deter any other state from leaving.

Arun Jaitley was right to say a deal with Britain would take many years and that discussions could only take place once Britain had formally left the EU.

There has been a lot of talk in Britain recently of the need to woo India as a key partner for it post-European future. The British have even begun to show contrition for their immeasurable murders and plunder. But for all the prattle about the two countries' shared history and love of cricket and tea, India must keep an ice-cold focus on its interests.

Brexit will represent an epochal chance to restructure the global order by exposing its weakest link: an isolated United Kingdom. Britain will be the soft spot through which India can punch its way to take its proper place among the real powers of the world.

Also read: Brexit: Britain showed what it's got, but India is smiling

Writer

Nirpal Dhaliwal Nirpal Dhaliwal @nirpaldhaliwal

He is a British journalist and writer.

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