A major British think-tank has issued a word of caution to the United Kingdom government, asking it to view India more as a rival than an important “commercial interest”. In its “Global Britain, Global Broker: A blueprint for the UK’s future international role” report, the Chatham House has termed India, Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia as the “Difficult Four” for a post-Brexit UK.

“Developing the relationship with India, a pivotal regional democracy, as part of this shift in British strategic focus, will prove a complex task,” read the report, according to PTI. “India’s importance to the UK is inescapable.” Chatham House published the report on January 11.

The report noted that India will very soon become the largest country in terms of population and will have the third-largest economy and defence budget in a decade’s time. “As a result, India is always on the list of countries with which a new UK government commits to engage,” it added. “But it should be obvious by now that the idea of a deeper relationship with India always promises more than it can deliver.”

The think-tank stated that the history of British colonial rule in India would continue to be a stumbling block. “In contrast, the US has become the most important strategic partner for India, as recent US administrations have intensified their bilateral security relations, putting the UK in the shade,” it noted.

“…Some of the original targets of Global Britain’ China, India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey may be important to the UK’s commercial interests, but they will be rivals or, at best, awkward counterparts on many of its global goals. While giving India the attention it deserves, the UK government needs to accept that gaining direct national benefit from the relationship, whether economically or diplomatically, will be difficult.”

— Global Britain, Global Broker: A blueprint for the UK’s future international role report

India’s complex, fragmented domestic politics a hindrance

The report also took into consideration India’s domestic politics, while advising the British government. “India’s complex, fragmented domestic politics have made it one of the countries most resistant to open trade and foreign investment,” the report said, according to IANS. It added that India does not have “a proactive foreign policy on the global issues” and would probably not join Britain in supporting liberal democracy beyond its shores.

It added:

“To the contrary, the overt Hindu nationalism of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is weakening the rights of Muslims and other minority religious groups, leading to a chorus of concern that intolerant majoritarianism is replacing the vision of a secular, democratic India bequeathed by Nehru. And the government’s broader crackdown on human rights activists and civil society groups is no longer being actively challenged by the judiciary, leading to growing complaints about erosion of the rule of law, not only from domestic groups but also the UN and other democracy-watchers.

— Global Britain, Global Broker: A blueprint for the UK’s future international role report

The think-tank advised the UK to invest in becoming a global broker. “At a minimum, the UK needs to be a leading member of the group of countries protecting and supporting liberal democracies and standing up for rules-based international collaboration,” it added. “The world needs less talk and more action. In this sense, an appreciation of Britain as a valued and creative global broker must be earned, not declared.”