London: Britain is "actively" exploring ways
to set up a joint task-force with India during Prime Minister
David Cameron's State Visit to New Delhi this month-end in an
effort to forge "a partnership for the 21st century."
Announcing this here, British Foreign Secretary William
Hague said Cameron has already launched a joint task-force
with the United Arab Emirates as part of efforts to elevate
links with the Gulf region.
The task-force with the UAE "will develop options for
strengthening our ties across the board," he said.
"I can also confirm that we are actively exploring the
scope for similar initiatives with other countries, including
a visit by Prime Minister Cameron to India to identify how we
can forge a partnership for the 21st century," he said.
A top diplomat told PTI that the exact dates for
Cameron's India visit would be finalised in a few days. "July
28 and 29 are among the dates under consideration," he said.
The Foreign Secretary, who was unveiling "Britain's
Foreign Policy in a Networked World" at the Grand Locarno Room
of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the presence of a
large number of global press and diplomats, said "the world
has changed and if we do not change with it Britain's role is
set to decline with all that that means for our influence in
world affairs, our national security and our economy."
He said the economic power and economic opportunity were
shifting to countries of the East and South; to emerging
powers of India, Brazil, China and Asia and to increasingly
significant economies such as Turkey and Indonesia.
"It is estimated that by 2050 emerging economies will be
up to 50 per cent larger than those of the current G-7,
including of course the United Kingdom. Yet the latest figures
show we export more to Ireland than we do to India, China and
Russia put together."
The Foreign Secretary said Britain has unrivalled human
links with some of the fastest growing countries of the world,
whether it is the millions of its own citizens who boast
Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage, "our close links
with Africa, or the 85,000 Chinese students currently being
educated in Britain or at UK campuses in China."
Noting that the English language gives Britons the
ability to share ideas "with millions - perhaps billions - of
people in the biggest emerging economies and - if we so
choose - to build networks across the world, Hague said "it
is staggering that in India 250 million school and
university-aged students - four times the entire population of
the United Kingdom - are now learning English.
"This underlines the essential importance of the work of
the British Council and the BBC World Service, which give
Britain an unrivalled platform for the projection of the
appeal of our culture and the sharing of our values."
Hague said the circle of international decision-making
has become wider and more multilateral.
"Decisions made previously in the G-8 are now negotiated
within the G-20, and this Government will be at the forefront
of those arguing for the expansion of the United Nations
Security Council," he said.
While this trend is hugely positive and indeed overdue it
poses a challenge to the British diplomacy, increasing the
number of countries the UK needs to understand and seek to
influence through its Ambassadors and network of embassies
overseas, Hague said.
"The views of the emerging powers are critical to our
ability to tackle global economic reform, nuclear
proliferation, climate change and energy security, but they
do not always agree with our approach to these problems when
they arise in the UN and elsewhere, making it all the more
necessary that our diplomacy is energetic and robust."
Describing Britain's alliance with the United States as
"unbreakable", Hague said "other bilateral ties matter too,
whether they are longstanding ties which have been allowed to
wither or stagnate or the new relations that we believe we
must seek to forge for the 21st century."
Referring to his three-day visit to Pakistan last week,
Hague said "there, as in so many other countries, relative
poverty does not preclude access to information from
numerous sources or stifle interest in the wider world.
Half of all Pakistanis are under the age of 20 and 100 million
have mobile phones.
"The average person has his or her own opinion on
developments in Afghanistan, the rights and wrongs of the
Middle East Peace Process as they see them and an impression
of the conduct of Britain and the United States in all these
"In our relations with Pakistan we therefore have to
understand that domestic opinion in Pakistan and the British-
Pakistani Diaspora matter, to the extent that the impact of
our expenditure on aid, counter-radicalisation and
counter-terrorism in Pakistan may well be undercut unless we
are creating a positive impression of Britain at the same
Referring to the G-20 meeting in Toronto last week,
Hague said the Prime Minister played a leading role in seeking
global action on climate change, maternal health, on the Doha
Trade round and international banking regulation and deficit
Answering questions on Iran, he said, "We have no
quarrels with the people of Iran. We remain open for
negotiations on the issue of its peaceful nuclear programme
but Iran is not willing to open negotiations."
Replying to a question on Afghanistan, he said there was
no purely military solution to the Afghan issue.
First Published: Thursday, July 01, 2010, 20:46