The Bold Voice of J&K

Cameron triumphs

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Harsh V Pant

Promising to lead a government for “one nation” and make “Great Britain greater” as he returned to 10 Downing Street as prime minister, David Cameron proved the British pollsters and political pundits wrong. For all the talk of an election that was too close to call, it turned out to be a not so close election after all.
But even he may not have foreseen that the Conservatives would end up with 331 seats – five more than needed for a Commons majority -their first such victory since 1992. It was an election that is likely to change the face of the Great Britain as the world has known it even as the British public proved that they were willing to make fateful choices all across the United Kingdom.
Labour has been all but wiped out by the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) in Scotland and suffered a disappointing set of results elsewhere, while the Liberal Democrats, the coalition partner of the Tories in the government, are left with just eight MPs after many party heavyweights such as former ministers, Vince Cable and Danny Alexander lost their seats. And within hours of election results,  Labour leader Ed Miliband,  Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg and  United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage, had resigned and political churning had begun.
Cameron had two simple messages in the campaign from which he never really veered away: the first – the economy is in good shape and the recovery is threatened by Labour. And the second – the SNP would hold a Labour-led government to ransom. The British public bought these arguments and put their stamp of approval on the economic management by the Tories for the last five years.
With an economic recovery in full swing, unemployment falling and real wages rising, the Conservatives had a powerful and optimistic message to sell. This is also a significant personal victory for Cameron and a rebuff for those in his party who had become increasingly sceptical about his ability to win.
This is likely to be one of the most profound elections in British history. The very future of the Union is at stake, following an SNP landslide that has turned Scotland into a virtual one-party state even as the Conservatives have strengthened their hold on England. The country also faces a generational decision about its future in Europe, with an European Union referendum in two years’ time as promised by Cameron almost certain. The larger European mood was summed up in the French Daily Le Monde headline: Triumph for Cameron. Concern for Europe.
Cameron’s victory is good news for India. India and Britain had forged a ‘strategic partnership’ during the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s visit to India in 2005 but it remained a partnership only in name.
The Conservatives were keen on imparting it a new momentum. The UK is the largest European investor in India and India is the second largest investor in the UK. Indian students are the second largest group in Britain.
There are significant historical, linguistic and cultural ties that remain untapped.  But the Labour government’s legacy on India was very complex and Cameron’s government needed great diplomatic finesse to manage the challenges. This was particularly true of the issue of Kashmir where the Labour government could not help but irritate New Delhi.
As late as 2009, the former Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, was hectoring the Indian government that the resolution of the Kashmir dispute is essential to solving the problem of extremism in South Asia.
In so doing, Miliband revealed not only his fundamental ignorance about the regional issues but in one stroke he ended up demolishing whatever little credibility Britain had in India. Granted that Indians tend to overreact whenever there is even an indication of any outside interest on the issue of Kashmir, Miliband’s ill-informed pronouncements and complete lack of sensitivity to Indian concerns raised some fundamental questions in New Delhi about the trajectory of British foreign policy. Miliband was merely trying to assuage the concerns of Labour Party’s domestic constituents, in particular the Pakistani Muslims who form the largest share of British Muslims. But such an approach has left an indelible mark on the Indian psyche of Britain being on the side of Pakistan on this most crucial of issues.

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