India going to be one of the key powers of world: Blair

Discussion in 'Foreign Relations' started by nrj, Sep 11, 2010.

  1. nrj

    nrj Stars and Ambassadors Stars and Ambassadors

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    NEW DELHI: Tony Blair shares with Manmohan Singh his fondness for former US president George Bush. And, as he tells Indrani Bagchi in an exclusive interview, he shares with Bush a belief in India's future.

    Although "A Journey", Blair's controversial memoirs, barely mention India, the former British PM said, "I was very keen to move beyond the old-fashioned relationship... My view was India was going to be one of the key leading powers of the world in the times to come. The west in the 21st century, including countries like mine will have to get used to the fact that we're going to have partners who will be equals, sometimes more than equals."

    India doesn't actually figure in your book. Was India not high in your list of priorities as prime minister?

    Actually I was very keen to reshape our relationship with India. The reason I haven't got a lot of it in the book is that here I was dealing with the issues that were highly controversial, whereas I was seeing the Anglo-Indian relations as being supportive. I was very keen to move beyond the old-fashioned relationship and to strike a new partnership with India. I got on very well with Mr Vajpayee and then obviously with Manmohan Singh.

    My view over time was India was going to be one of the key leading powers of the world in the times to come and we had to create a strong relationship. It's true I also thought, because we worked very closely with America on the relationship with India, that Britain's relationship with India had to be partly seen through the prism of our relationship with America and not only our relationship with the European Union.

    In your book you mentioned Pakistan using terrorism as a state tool. When you were in government, how did you deal with this?

    We worked closely with the Pakistani government about it. I tried very hard to encourage a better relationship between India and Pakistan. But I was very conscious of the fact that India was suffering the consequences of terrorism, that terrorism was serious and I think, we in the west were pretty slow to wake up to the Indian experience and what it meant, not just for India, but for us.

    Given your experience with the Iraq war, what would be your recommendation for a resolution in Afghanistan?

    This is a struggle. It's a movement with a global ideology based on a perversion of Islam. It's hard because it's an asymmetrical study in warfare. It can't be beaten by simple conventional warfare. It's tough to beat, but it's important to recognize that if we don't beat it and we make any concession to it, it will only get stronger.

    What would you say to efforts to reconcile with the Taliban?

    We have to be really careful there. It depends on what terms we can reconcile. If they have terms that allow people to live decent lives, civilized lives and modernize the country, and there are elements of Taliban that can be integrated. But what we should be under no illusions about is if Afghanistan goes back under the influence of the Taliban, and they have reactionary view, refuse to have girls taught in schools, stone people to death for being in love, then we can't go down that path. I'm afraid that what we have to understand about this global terrorism that we've got is that it's a generation-long struggle. We have to commit not just resources, but political will to see it through and get it knocked out.

    Do you see some of that political will wavering under the burden of the economic crisis?

    That makes it tougher, but the thing that makes it toughest is that the battle fought against terrorism, suicide attacks, roadside bombs, in many ways is a dispiriting battle. It's hard. It's a tough, long battle. But that's just the nature of it, I'm afraid and we can't give up on it, because if we do, then the very people within these countries, in the region, the people that are fighting this menace, they will give up if we give up.

    Is this a message you would give to the powers across the Atlantic?

    That's true. That's why, I think India's got a lot to teach the world at the moment, actually. And shape the world opinion on this. Lot of people focus on the Indian economy and its diversity, and so on, and all that is true and absolutely right. But it's also what India has got to teach is in terms of culture, in terms of peaceful co-existence between religions and in terms of dealing with this struggle against terrorism.

    As a statesman, give us a grand sweep of the world as you see it for the foreseeable future?

    There are two major changes that have come home to me after I left office. One is the shift of global power to the east, to Asia, to countries like India and China. And the west in the 21st century, including countries like mine will have to get used to the fact that we're going to have partners who will be equals, sometimes more than equals.

    It might be challenging for us actually, but we've got to come to terms with that and realize that in the end the geopolitics of the world has changed fundamentally, and for good. Secondly, we have to acknowledge that this extremist threat is still here, it's real and it's not going away. We need to double our efforts to confront this. It's a global threat based on an ideology. It may be based on a perversion of Islam, but the fact is, it's a strain within Islam. And that is a difficult thing to say but it's necessary to say it. Only by saying it do we understand it and then we can confront it effectively.

    India going to be one of the key powers of world: Blair
     
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