Should the UK look to India to navigate the Iran crisis?

Wednesday 24th July 2019 08:02 EDT

India has far better relations with Iran than the UK, yet some of the captives in Iran, are Indian. Until India is willing to project its power and influence on the international stage, as opposed to chest thumping to a domestic audience about mosques to its own nationals, it will remain a second-rate power (Rather, third-rate, because I assume the re-joinder will be that the UK is second-rate as stated by the Russian President).

The on-going crisis with Iran is the perfect opportunity for India to join forces with the UK and press the Iranians for release of the Indian nationals and the British Stena Impero. Instead, the UK has looked to Europe and the US. In the meantime, headlines in India as broadcasted by NDTV, highlight of our obsession with Pakistan and Bollywood.

Simultaneously, this is also time for the famed British Indian diaspora to press India in assisting the UK to speak to Iran. Indian leaders especially, with the Prime Minister has been voted to power by the largest number of people in the history of democracy and the world. You would think he has the legitimacy, more so than the EU and the US, to claim to be a world leader, and a spokesperson for democratic values, the human rights that flow from the promise of free and fair elections. Such leadership does not need a UN Security Council seat – the EU doesn’t have one, Germany and Japan do not have one. Indian political leaders have never since Gandhi managed to capture the world stage, or project their imprint or thought.

 Yes of course, India as it celebrates its Independence has many domestic issues to resolve, but as it reaches for the stars in its space programme it surely should raise all of mankind with its unique position on Earth.

A democracy in a tough non-democratic neighbourhood. I mean, you have China, Russia, Afghanistan and Iran on your door-step. Ultimately, world history does not favour the non-aligned, the neutral. You will always be forced to take sides – and the side we want is an India with a global voice on the world stage. Still too often she is willing only to play timidly in her neighbourhood.

What does this mean in practical terms? Clear pressure on Iran to comply on its nuclear non-proliferation treaty obligations – ironic you may think from India, but the US is no less a nuclear hypocrite.

A threat to Assad that he halt killing Muslims or India seeks another resolution in the UN for military intervention, because India speaks for Muslims in democracies. A clear message to Putin that destabilising Ukraine is not in the EU’s interests and therefore not in India’s – because democracies stand together – join the club or get lost in isolation. The message to Hamas – Israel has a right to exist. She is the only democracy in the region. Bombing democracies will not be tolerated. A message to ISIS – India is the land of 300 million muslims – she is against ISIS and speaks for 300 million muslims when she says that. India alone can shore up democracies at a time when democracies are under threat. An independent India means an India with a strong voice on a global stage – not an India that makes big speeches to small neighbours alone.

Until all these things are done – India is not quite ready to be … a second-rate power just yet.

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