#Putting it in context, #2017/2016, #April 2017

It may be time to anoint New Delhi as a hub for a reimagined Commonwealth, writes India Inc. CEO Manoj Ladwa.

This week the Commonwealth Secretariat has launched a report which claims that if the UK and India sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), this could boost bilateral trade by a staggering 26 per cent. I am somewhat sceptical about the speed at which an FTA could be agreed and the figures. But nonetheless any moves in this direction is positive. It is also here that the larger canvas of the Commonwealth could provide a fillip to a much more meaningful UK-India relationship of the future. There are, however, some practical and emotional hurdles to overcome before we get there.

For instance, India has been Independent for 70 years but even now some quarters in the country are still very prickly when it comes to discussions on the colonial era and India’s relations with the UK. Fortunately, such mindsets are fast becoming a thing of the past as the post-Cold War, post-9/11, post-Brexit world gets set for the next big challenges.

As one of the former colonies that has, especially with the rise of Modi – India’s first Prime Minister to be born after India’s independence – made a decisive break with the past, India has in my view everything to gain and very little, if anything, to lose from this approach. The Commonwealth could be one such institution that can become a vehicle to drive large parts of the world into the 21st century.

Though there is an urgent need to reimagine it, not as Empire 2.0 as some misguided apologists for the past have done in Britain but as a modern, forward-looking trade bloc that can help its members navigate through the choppy and highly complex waters of the global economy.

I have consistently argued that the UK has to do much of the heavy lifting following Brexit. This may be a good time to put its considerable global heft and prestige behind the move to reform and reinvigorate the Commonwealth and reimagine it as a global trading platform fit for the 21st century and beyond. It is for Her Majesty’s government to convince India, by far the largest Commonwealth member, to become its partner in the process. It is the world’s fastest growing major economy and clearly the nation to watch out for in this century. But over the years, India has viewed the Commonwealth with less than full enthusiasm.

Today, though, the world is a different place. In the era of Donald Trump and with winds of isolationism gathering pace in some Western democracies, India’s global aspirations and its far-sighted and global minded leader Narendra Modi stand out as a bellwether in the global community.

Given his penchant for getting things done and for carrying other countries along – as he did with the International Solar Alliance – the place to start would be New Delhi.

To re-imagine the Commonwealth, the following steps need to be taken:

  • Recognition of a rebalancing and redistribution of power within the Commonwealth – not just India, but in key countries like Nigeria, Australia, Canada, Singapore and the East African economies
  • Structural reform with some stronger weightage placed on India from an administrative perspective
  • Anoint New Delhi as the hub or head office of the Commonwealth trading bloc
  • Re-imagining the shared values and shared aspirations on the lines of Modi’s inclusive Sabka Ka Saath, Sabka Vikas credo as large swathes of the Commonwealth remain impoverished
  • The fight against poverty must take centre-stage, not through lecturing but real programmes, such as the export of the Jan Dhan Yojana, India’s highly successful financial inclusion scheme.

Frankly, however, the often referred to issue in the corridors of Lutyens Delhi remains the future role of British monarchy. Having the Queen as the non-political ceremonial head of the Commonwealth has historically served it well, no doubt. And, in my view it is probably not as big an issue as some make it out to be, but the relationship between Prince Charles and Modi will play an important role in the emergence of the Commonwealth in the coming decades. The fact that the two men, who will find they have a lot in common, have not yet met, is one thing that needs to be rectified, and rectified quick.

The advantages are obvious and massive – a readymade, English speaking bloc straddling every continent of the world, with common or similar legal and other systems, a combined GDP of $10.4 trillion or 14 per cent of global GDP and a population of 2.4 billion or a third of the world.

The opportunity beckons. Does Mrs May’s government have the nimbleness to pick up the threads and weave it into a fabric?

That’s the 10-billion-dollar question.


Manoj Ladwa is the founder of India Inc. and chief executive of MLS Chase Group @manojladwa

#2017/2016, #April 2017, #Global Indian

Baroness Usha Prashar straddles the worlds of politics and arts with comfort and ease. ‘India Global Business’ explores what being a Global Indian means to her.

How would you say the India-UK dynamic has evolved over the years?

India and UK have always had a special relationship but like any relationship it has had its ups and downs. In recent years the relationship has matured. India has become important economically and the relationship is beginning to change.

There is now much more reciprocity and a recognition that the relationship has to be based on equal footing. It is gaining a different dynamic. India @ 70 is more confident and its 70th anniversary is being marked by the UK India Year of Culture.

#2017/2016, #April 2017, #More from this edition

Our expert explains why a sedentary office-bound lifestyle is like a ticking time bomb and how yoga therapy can help counter the effects on our joints.

Studies suggest we are all sitting for an average of 5.5 hours a day. We then go home and sit for a further 2.5-4 hours. The development of Osteoarthritic (joint wear & tear) conditions are a direct result of such a lifestyle.

The management of such low to medium grade conditions is through medication such as Ibuprofen and Celebrex, which are NSAIDS (non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory) medicines and help to manage chronic and acute pain. But they are also known to increase the prevalence of major cardio vascular incidence by as much as 37 per cent. This could be in the form of a stroke or a heart attack.

#UK/Europe, #2017/2016, #April 2017

A London-based policy expert weighs up the challenges and opportunities thrown up by Brexit to strike a stronger India-UK dynamic.

Talk of Brexit is never far from the headlines in the UK press. Theresa May triggering Article 50 signaled the start of the process. This presents significant challenges and opportunities for Commonwealth countries, with India being a prime example.

New research from my organisation, the Royal Commonwealth Society, reveals an overwhelming majority of British businesses want to see the Government prioritise trade deals with the Commonwealth. It is significant that nearly three quarters of all UK businesses want an Indian trade deal.

#UK/Europe, #2017/2016, #April 2017

‘India Global Business’ caught up with India’s minister of state for External Affairs, M.J. Akbar, during a recent London visit to attend the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG) meeting.

The Commonwealth must become more people-centric and find ways of creating meaning for the citizens of the 52 member countries, India’s minister of state for external affairs M.J. Akbar believes.

In his message at the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), the minister also highlighted India’s hope that the organisation will work towards increasing the things it has in common.

#UK/Europe, #2017/2016, #April 2017

As the number of Indian students coming to study at UK universities continues to register a drop, a new report reveals just what Britain stands to lose.

International students coming to study at UK universities are worth over 25 billion pounds to the British economy, found new research released today.

The latest analysis titled ‘The Economic Impact of International Students’, conducted for representative organisation Universities UK by Oxford Economics, shows that in 2014-15 spending by international students supported 206,600 jobs in university towns and cities across the UK.

#Commonwealth, #2017/2016, #April 2017

It is time for the Commonwealth to introspect on its role for the 21st century and look at adding new members and acquiring a sharper financial focus.

As a British citizen of Indian origin born in Uganda, I enjoy a triple connection with the Commonwealth. I was therefore drawn towards speaking in a recent debate on the Commonwealth in the House of Lords — almost like a magnetic field.

#2017/2016, #Hotspot, #April 2017

The northern part of the United Kingdom is making a strong case for Indian businesses to choose Scotland as a base for their UK expansion plans.

Scotland’s people are famous for the warmth of their welcome. Home to just over five million people, it is estimated that for every person living in Scotland, another five people living across the world have Scottish ancestry. With such close and extensive connections to every corner of the world, it is no wonder that overseas visitors to Scotland are made to feel like they are returning home!

#2017/2016, #Hotspot, #April 2017

Nicola Sturgeon is the outspoken First Minister of Scotland who has been campaigning for a voice for Scotland in the post-Brexit scenario. Her call for a second referendum on Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom has raised the spectre of a new kind of exit – Scotland’s exit from the UK (Scexit).

Nicola Ferguson Sturgeon is the first woman to become leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and First Minister of Scotland, a post created in 1999 when the Scottish Parliament was reconvened following a referendum in support of devolution from the UK in 1997.

#Commonwealth, #2017/2016, #April 2017

There are seemingly insurmountable hurdles in the path of reinventing the Commonwealth as a multilateral free trade bloc but the potential upsides could make it a proposal worth pursuing.

There is a superstition in some parts of India which posits that inauspicious beginnings beget the best outcomes. If this proposition contains even a grain of empirical truth, then the proposal to reimagine the 52-nation Commonwealth as a 21st century trading bloc couldn’t have got off to a better start.

In the run-up to the Commonwealth Trade Ministers’ Meeting in London in March, an unnamed British official dubbed the discussion in some circles to reimagine the Commonwealth as a trade bloc as “Empire 2.0” – exactly the kind of language that raises the hackles of people in the former colonies.