British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, on a two-day trip to the Indian capital, New Delhi, delivered a keynote foreign policy speech calling for greater Indian representation, particularly on security matters, as part of a "new global society."
The prime minister called on India to join the Financial Action Task Force, a Paris-based international body fighting terrorist financing and money laundering. Brown said Britain wanted to provide India with better support for security at airports and ports, as well as increase ties with its security services.
"What I would like to see is greater contact between our two countries in winning the battle of hearts and minds, isolating extremist ideologues who try to poison young people," Brown said.
Britain is home to more than 1.5 million people of Indian origin, descendants of immigrants who came to the country after World War II to fill the gap in the labor market for unskilled workers.
In recent years, disenchantment and Islamic radicalization has risen among a small minority of the British Asian community, as demonstrated by the London bombings of July 7, 2005, which were carried out by Britons of Asian descent. Though the bombers grew up in England, the event led to calls for increasing increased security ties with South Asian countries with which many British Asians still maintain links.
During his widely reported visit, Brown called for fundamental reform of international organizations including the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, saying that new global powers like India deserved a more powerful say. The move is likely to rankle neighboring Pakistan.
"We can and must do more to make our global institutions more representative and I support India's bid for a permanent place, with others, on an expanded UN Security Council," Brown told an audience of Indian business leaders.
Calling the Asian economic boom, "the biggest shift in the balance of economic power in the world in two centuries," Brown said international organizations had to be "radically reformed to fit our world of globalization: 200 states, an emerging single marketplace, unprecedented individual autonomy, and the increasing power of informal networks."
In India, the call for greater Indian sway was well received, drawing immediate applause among the gathered audience. The Times of India called it Brown's big foreign-policy moment."
India has been pushing for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council for several years.
But, as The Times of London notes, neighboring countries are unlikely to receive the news as enthusiastically:
"[Brown's] support for India's case for a place on the Security Council will cause anger in Pakistan, whose own claim for a seat has hampered past attempts at reform. Mr Brown continues to side with India."
Pakistan and India have fought three major wars since the founding of the two separate states in 1947, and they continue to dispute control of the territory of Kashmir.
In the past, Pakistan's UN ambassador, Munir Akram, has unequivocally rejected India's bid for a permanent seat, according to India's The Tribune:
"Pakistan will do everything possible to thwart India's attempts to get a permanent seat in the UNSC."
However, for Britain, India retains both sentimental value dating back to its time as the jewel in the crown of the British Empire, as well as real material sway as an increasing global power.
"While we hold on to India, we are a first-rate power. If we lose India, we will decline to a third-rate power. This is the value of India," said Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India from 1899 to 1905.
It is a sentiment arguably applicable once more. As noted by The Economic Times of India, Brown was ready to affirm "a partnership of equals."
With Pakistan facing continued domestic unrest following the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Britain is likely to continue favoring India. However, Brown will meet Pervez Musharraf this week as the Pakistani president tours Europe, seeking to drum up support for his weak regime, the BBC reported.
Brown's call for Indian representation comes as debate over UN reform intensifies and is part of a wider plan to expand the Security Council, The Times of London:
"Britain is pressing for the Security Council's five permanent members to be increased to include India, Japan, Germany and Brazil, plus an African country…. Under Mr Brown's plans, the new members would not initially win veto powers similar to the existing five – the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France. Instead, places on the Security Council would be offered without blocking powers in a first phase, followed by subsequent changes that included veto rights."
Beyond institutional reform and concerns about terror, there is trade.
India is now the third-largest foreign investor in the United Kingdom, Reuters reported. Accompanied by leading British businessmen, Brown said he was eager to shore up business deals with this new economic powerhouse, saying that "there are $10 billion in contracts waiting to be signed."