and particularly by the Pakistani military establishment.
The IR makes plain that Britain will continue its close connection to Pakistan. “We have close historical links with Pakistan and will continue to develop a strong, modern relationship focused on security, stability and prosperity. We will continue to support stability in Afghanistan, as part of a wider coalition” (p.62). The relationship with Afghanistan will be hard to sustain following the Biden administration’s decision (made after the IR was released) to leave. This exit will make UK’s relationship with Pakistan even more important as will London’s reluctance to allow China to become the sole (as opposed to prime) ally of Islamabad. Furthermore the large Pakistani diaspora in UK makes close relations essential. This will present a constant irritant between London and New Delhi.
That same Pakistani diaspora will ensure that the running sore of the Kashmir dispute is constantly raised in the UK Parliament. Most people of Pakistani origin in the UK come from the Mirpur area in Pakistan Held Kashmir (PHK) and familial ties ensure that events such as India’s revocation of Article 370 in August 2019 are never far from the Westminster agenda.
Another source of annoyance is the UK’s tendency to view Counter Terrorism through a domestic lens, focussing primarily on threats against the UK mainland. To New Delhi this smacks of an unwillingness to push Pakistan hard enough against groups which are hostile to India’s role in Kashmir such as Jaish-e-Mohammed, the group responsible for the Pulwama attack which so nearly led to an India-Pakistan war in 2019. Twice in recent years (after the terrorist attacks on the Indian Parliament in 2001 and on Mumbai in 2008) the UK has urged India to hold back from military retaliation against Pakistan but has then failed to deliver on attempts to get Pakistan to end all support for Kashmiri jihadist groups.
Mrs Thatcher’s complaint about the innate socialism of India’s Congress Party leaders changed when the BJP came to power and particularly with the arrival of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister in 2014. In a right wing populist famously enthusiastic about business David Cameron’s Coalition government sensed an opportunity. The British High Commissioner took the gamble of going to see Modi in Gujerat before the election at a time when the latter was still being vilified for communal violence which had resulted in numerous Muslim fatalities. However the ploy did not pay off and the Cameron administration was later criticised for its tactical focus on trade deals rather than engaging in the sort of long-term diplomacy which the French, Germans and Japanese have successfully pursued over many decades. When Modi selected the future fighter aircraft for the Indian Air Force he chose the French Rafale over the Typhoon which Cameron had championed.
Meanwhile Cameron’s Home Secretary was seen as inflicting collateral damage on relations by her inflexible position on Indian student visas; insisting that they must be counted in overall immigration figures rather than as a separate category. Theresa May carried this policy into her short tenure as Prime Minister during which uncertainty over Brexit further hindered a breakthrough in relations.
It was only with the election of Boris Johnson that the prospects for UK-India relations suddenly improved. Johnson has long been interested in India and his brother Jo was South Asia correspondent for the Financial Times based in New Delhi from 2005 to 2008. The new British government not only had a Chancellor of the Exchequer of Indian origin but, in Priti Patel, a Home Secretary who was only too willing to reverse Mrs May’s policies and enable more Indian students to access British Universities.
Underlying these developments was a political transformation which could have fundamental implications for relations. The Indian diaspora in the UK which numbers some 1.5 million has traditionally voted for the Labour Party which was seen as more welcoming to immigrants. Partly due to Brexit and to the innate entrepreneurship of many Indians in UK, but also because of the enthusiasm for Modi’s brand of nationalist politics, the diaspora has increasingly begun to vote Conservative. This began in 2015 and grew in both 2017 and 2019.
The benefits of this development are obvious for Johnson’s relations with Modi but they also conceal real dangers. The large Pakistani diaspora in UK still votes Labour which is now, more than ever, seen to favour Muslims who look askance at the Tory Party’s willingness to overlook Modi’s Hindu nationalist policies, his increasing intolerance of minorities and dissent and his removal of the rights of Kashmiris in India’s only majority-Muslim state. The problem here could not only be a threat to communal relations within some British cities but also that