The UK election results dont portend a doomsday scenario

The UK election results dont portend a doomsday scenario
The UK election results dont portend a doomsday scenario

When politicians misjudge the public mood and gamble, the end result can be politically catastrophic. In that sense, the UK election results are nothing short of a political earthquake - the second one to hit the UK in 10 months. Just as David Cameron had misread the public mood in Britain when he called for the Brexit vote, Theresa May's decision to go back to the people a full three years before her term as Her Majesty's First Minister was to expire has also proved to be a grave political miscalculation. Mistake Yes. Apocalypse No. Though her gamble has backfired and in spite of the short-term uncertainty it has created in its wake, I am confident that the political dust will soon settle and government will get back down to the business of governing. And do so quickly. May has been quick to tie up support from the ideologically allied Ulster Unionists. Given that the Tories are only a handful of seats short of the majority mark, there is little threat to the stability of her government at the moment. She has also been able to see off threats from party colleagues who had hoped to challenge her authority following the electoral setback. But what she has lost - and this, though intangible, is as important as parliamentary numbers - is some of the political capital she needs going into what is expected to be a bruising, gloves-off negotiation with Brussels over the terms of Britain's exit from the European Union. Silver lining Taking a slightly longer term view, I think the hung verdict - and consequent reduced political clout of the ruling party - may well prove to be the cloud that has a large, but currently hidden, silver lining. For one thing, we can assume that those who were all too ready to drive a so-called hard Brexit option, under which the UK would have left the European Union without a deal to secure access for its goods and personnel in the EU, would be somewhat tempered. Opening for India May 2.0 would be correct also to interpret the fractured mandate as a message to continue to press for a more globally engaged Brirain rather than a mandate to aggressively pull up the draw bridge on foreign business and people. This provides a services-driven export economy like India the opportunity to press its case for a fair and sensible immigration regime recognising the immense value Indian talent can bring to the UK economy. This will be good news for the 800-odd Indian companies that have established their businesses in the UK not only to tap its large and prosperous market but also to use the country as a bridge-head to the economic colossus that lies across the English Channel. Then, London remains a preferred destination for Indian companies looking to raise money from the international markets - whether through foreign currency-denominated paper or via the rupee-denominated masala bonds. A soft Brexit will most likely ensure that the City retains its allure for Indian investors, who flock to it not only because of business reasons but also due to cultural and family ties. A hard Brexit, on the other hand, would have put their investments - made on the basis of assumed easy access to the EU - at risk. That is a fallout neither the UK nor Indian investors would have enjoyed, and possibly could have led to a longer term strain in bilateral relations. Indian companies are, collectively, the third largest investor group in the UK and among the largest employers in that country. Right time for a closer clinch That apart, this vote could actually (and contrary to some belief) give a fillip to closer UK-India economic ties. There is a broad bi-partisan political consensus in the UK on the importance of India and trading relations with New Delhi. It is clear that UK ministers will need to work harder and be sharper in helping to get deals done and issues resolved. I hope this hung verdict provides an impetus for both governments to focus on the initiatives that are already on the anvil - in foreign policy, on strategic issues, on the economy, on people to people contacts and on ensuring greater cultural connect. The way forward To start with, Prime Ministers May and Modi should urgently review the work of the Working Group that has been set up to explore deeper trade and investment ties. So far, there has been scant information on what, if anything, has been discussed by the group. Then, the two governments can leverage the goodwill generated by the high profile UK-India Year of Culture to promote further and closer people to people ties to celebrate all that unites the two great nations. Much can be done through this initiative to boost the mood and confidence between people. Cooperation on reinvigorating the Commonwealth There is also huge scope for cooperation between the UK and India on re-imagining the Commonwealth as a body that encourages freer trade and on facilitating greater market access between member states. The UK will next April host heads of government for the Commonwealth's bi-annual summit. There is huge opportunity for India to be re-engaged and encouraged to take a central leadership role of this otherwise traditionally perceived sleepy post-colonial club. Terrorism is a scourge that is affecting both India and the UK (and indeed, large parts of the world). Now that the Manchester and London terror attacks have brought this monster to British shores three times in quick succession, there is all the more urgency for the two sides to join forces to fight this danger with redoubled vigour. And finally, US President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Pact makes it imperative for countries like the UK and India to take the lead role, along with countries like France and Germany in ensuring that we leave the world a better place for future generations. Not quite doomsday yet In the light of the above, I don't think the political earthquake in the UK will result in too much lasting damage either in Britain or in India. If anything, it does provide an opportunity to push ahead with the huge list of unfinished business. In fact, it is an opportunity to drive more focus into the bilateral relationship, not less as some may be fearing.

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