29 Jul 2010

Cameron’s Indian Kama Sutra moment?

After interviewing the Prime Minister in Delhi this morning it seems to me that David Cameron is not just attempting a love-in with India, but the full on Kama Sutra.

India is being bathed in adulation from the old colonial master turned persistent successful suitor.

And judging by the Delhi front pages the charm offensive appears to have worked.

When I pushed the PM on exactly what the UK had got in return for massive concessions on the nuclear technology transfer, those jets, and the India-friendly rhetoric on Pakistan, he said something extraordinary: “We’re actually starting to re-industrialise some of Britain,” he said pointing to a conversation he had today with Ratan Tata, the Indian industrialist who is Britain’s biggest manufacturing employer.

It is quite some claim given that in the past half decade alone UK exports to India have fallen sharply, seeing Britain slump from number 5 to number 18 in the Indian export league table.

On Pakistan, Number 10 is adamant that there’s no change in policy, yet the PM seemed keen to tone down the rhetoric.

“I don’t think it’s overshadowed anything, I think its important to speak frankly and clearly about these issues, I’ve always done that in the past and I’ll always want to do that as Prime Minister,” he told me.

I do have a suspicion that the PM’s rhetorical flush on Pakistan was by design rather than by accident. I’d expect more flexibility on the immigration cap too. But the PM denied that the Indian response to the cap showed that the policy was unworkable.

“We want to capture the benefits of immigration – it should be about quality rather than quantity,” he said.

The PM did reject suggestions that he should return some of the crown jewels to India. But he gave much, much more. The costs, assuming the Pakistan furore blows over, were minimal. The potential benefits may be seen for decades.