China priority, India poor cousin
London, Jan. 19: There are some secrets that Indian officials need to know about Gordon Brown who is now on his way to India after two days in China for talks with Manmohan Singh on Monday.
Sources in London say Britain’s 56-year-old Prime Minister will attempt to deepen the engagement with India by concentrating on education while pressing the country to open up its legal, insurance, banking and other financial sectors to British institutions and do more to combat climate change.
India is likely to question the need for a £1000-bond which Indians in the UK will have to pay to sponsor a visit by a relative. The period for which a visa is valid is to be halved from six months to three.
At a personal level, India’s protocol officials do not need to worry about whether to give Brown and his partner, Sarah Macaulay, a double bed. He married his long-term girlfriend in August 2000.
His friends (eg Lord Swraj Paul) believe he has more integrity than Tony Blair, while his critics find he lacks the former Prime Minister’s easy charm.
Unlike the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is coming with former supermodel Carla Bruni, Brown — his father was a minister of the church — hails from traditional Scottish stock. His experience with women — there are only three known ex-girlfriends — is said to have been somewhat limited. He was chancellor of the exchequer for a record 10 years before Blair stepped down in June last year and finally allowed a frustrated Brown to have the job he believes he should have had in 1997.
For Monday’s talks, the Indian side needs to be carefully briefed on the agreements Brown has made with China and compare them with the ones reached during the Indian Prime Minister’s recent trip to Beijing.
To say that in the pursuit of more business with what he has praised as “the world’s fastest growing economy”, Brown has turned a blind eye to China’s poor human rights record would probably be accurate. But commentators add this would also be in bad taste. To say that in the pursuit of more business with what he has praised as “the world’s fastest growing economy”, Brown has turned a blind eye to China’s poor human rights record would probably be accurate. But commentators add this would also be in bad taste.
Brown is blind in his left eye, which is fitted with a glass replica, a consequence of a rugby accident at Edinburgh University (where he read history). He does not have a driving licence, though this week British officials expressed pleasure that more Bentleys are now sold to the newly affluent in China than in the UK.
Britain will host the Olympics in 2012 after China has done so this year.
What has become clear is that Brown’s priority is to boost trade with China, which may mean that India will have to be prepared to be poor cousins so far as dealings with the UK are concerned.
China is definitely friend, not foe, stressed Brown.
After a meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao, Brown declared: “Others see globalisation as a risk, I see the rise of China and the realities of globalisation not as a threat but as an opportunity. I want Britain to reach out to China and force an even closer relationship between our two countries.”
After talks with his opposite number, Wen Jiabao, Brown disclosed he wanted two-way trade with China to increase by 50 per cent in the next two years to £30 billion. He also wanted to see 100 new Chinese companies investing in the UK by 2010.
He said he would welcome the creation of a London office for the Chinese government’s Sovereign Wealth Fund — the multi-billion-dollar state-owned investment vehicle. The London Stock Exchange has opened an office in Beijing — which it has yet to do in Mumbai.
“I believe that tens of thousands of jobs in Britain for British workers can be created by closer cooperation between our two countries,” enthused Brown.
Brown had taken with him a number of attractive high profile figures, including Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson and Olympic double medallist Dame Kelly Holmes.