‘India should be the 8th member of G7’: Blackman

As a democratic with a massive population, India is aligned with the rest of G7 members in terms of trade and other requirements, a special interview by Anjali Kochhar

India should be the eighth member of the Group of 7 countries considering it is aligned in terms of trade and other requirements with the rest of the members, said the Member of Parliament of the United Kingdom Bob Blackman.

He further said that PM Johnson would be pushing that to the other member countries so that India could fulfill its rightful place in the world.

This year the G7 summit will be presided by the UK with India, Australia and South Korea being invited as guest countries. It will be held in Cornwall in the UK on June 11-13. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has expressed his inability to join the summit in-person due to the pandemic in India.

In an exclusive interview with India News Network, Blackman said, “I have a view that the G7 should become the G8 and India should be the eighth country involved in the G8. I think that is the right thing to do. India is such a massive country with a massive population. It is the biggest democracy in the world and indeed aligned in terms of trade and other requirements with the rest of the members. So, it makes sense for India to be included as a full partner not just as a guest. I am looking forward to that happening because I think that is the right thing to do.”

“In the summit of 2021, our Prime Minister would be pushing that to the other member countries so that India could fulfill its rightful place in the world,” he added.

ALSO READ – India-UK Launch ‘Roadmap 2030′

G7 is the only forum where the world’s most influential and open societies and advanced economies are brought together for close-knit discussions. The members of the G7 are Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, with the European Union present as an observer. If in near future, India becomes a part of the forum, it would be a matter of pride for the country.

India and the United Kingdom have a prosperous bilateral relationship with 1.5 million people of Indian origin in the UK equating to almost 1.8% of Britain’s population. They contribute to 6 percent of the UK economy.

G7
Bob Blackman MP at 10 Downing Street Diwali

Last week, to further cement the relationship in the next 10 years, India and the UK decided to embark on a 2030 roadmap. One of the key announcements of the roadmap was to double two-way trade in the next 10 years.

Speaking about it, Blackman said, “This is a tremendous step forward because India is the third biggest investor in the UK already and we have slipped down the league table. I think the UK now is only the sixth biggest investor in India. This trade deal would change the position quite dramatically. This would move us way up the league table which is what we want to see happen and recreate that firm friendship and firm investment program that we have previously had. Now it is difficult during the pandemic but there is no reason why we can’t lay the ground for improvement in trade. There was a drastic improvement in the trade taking place between the two great countries taking place anyways so this has just cemented the position.”

But, things are easier said diplomatically than done on a ground level. Both countries might face some challenges down the line that should be resolved with cooperation.

Bob Blackman MP during a debate organised by National Indian Students and Alumni Union UK (NISAU) on Indian Education System at the House of Commons in London

Speaking of the short-term and long-term challenges both countries might face following the roadmap, Blackman said, “There does have to be some changes as we need to facilitate Indian goods and Indian expertise coming to the United Kingdom. But in the same way, our friends in India need to lower the tariff on some of our goods and services and open up the market a bit for the UK to offer its expertise. Some of the areas like law and accountancy and the service industry are what the UK is good at. We would like to see that market open up. Tariffs on whiskey should also be lowered because that is one of our biggest exports. Doubling the trade is timid and I think we can do better than that.”

However, Blackman said that it would not be difficult to mutually resolve those challenges considering the similar political stance of both governments. He suggested that both governments should also involve state heads in the bilateral cooperation so that things can become smoother in the long term.

“There will be barriers in the long term but what is up on a mutual basis to get rid of those. At the moment with both sides having a very strong government, that’s the ideal time to make these things happen. Both governments right now are center-right so there is political connectivity as well. One of the key things we have to come to terms with is that we have to deal with not only central but state governments as well. I have visited several states and met the representatives of those states and it is very clear to me that it has got to be a positive way forward for us. Now some things are going to affect us overall. Climate change is one of them and together we can achieve our set targets.”

Further, Blackman noted that working with the confederation of British Industry and the confederation of Indian industry has helped to maintain a good bilateral arrangement.

“We work very closely with our Confederation of British Industry and the Confederation of the Indian Industry and that is a very good bilateral arrangement. What we want to see is a full free trade agreement between India and the UK. If we get free trade agreements with concessions on both sides enabling Indian students to come to the UK and vice versa,” he added.

The UK MP is immensely hopeful that the future of the relationship between both sides will be bright and prosperous. He said that India and the UK should be ‘critical friends’ with understanding.

“I think we are no longer in a master-servant arrangement and it is now a two-way partnership with a united future. We will be looking back and saying what a magical journey it was and how successful we have been over the years and how could anyone have thought this was not going to happen in 10 years. We got to promote this relationship and be steadfast friends and when you are friends sometimes you got to say things to each other that are not always welcome. So, we will be looking at each other as critical friends with appropriate understanding over the years,” he said.

Blackman is a Conservative Party politician who has been an MP for Harrow East since 2010. The north London MP, who is also chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Hindus, has been termed by many as a ‘friend of India’.

Lastly, the Padma Shri awardee said that he will continue to be vocal about the concerns in India so that a balance could be maintained in the UK parliament and India gets a fair hearing.

(India News Network)

ALSO READ – Sadiq launches ‘London Eats’ campaign