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Project update: India-UK Relations

The first few weeks of 2012 clearly demonstrated that, more than ever, it is time to reimagine India-UK relations. The outpouring of media comment over recent high-profile political events have reminded us how important cultural relations are.

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In the debate about the India government’s decision not to buy weaponry from the UK but rather from France, and in renewed controversy about UK funding for development in India, we can see the subtle hand of culture at work.

Perceptions of one another, and of the nature and robustness of the relationship, were clearly at work. For some in the UK, a shared love of curry and cricket should have been enough for the contract to come to that country, while the Daily Mail  felt India should have shown its gratitude for many years of development aid.

Such attitudes seem to display some complacency about the nature of the relationship, and a failure to appreciate how much India may have changed in terms of political and economic assertiveness, and sense of its place in the world.

Thus, some commentators like The Telegraph’s Dean Nelson, warn that the long relationship between the UK and India may in the modern, global world, be proving as much a hindrance as an asset. Because it shapes each country’s expectations and perceptions of one another, our shared history may be valuable – but it needs to be renewed if it is not to become a drag.

Counterpoint and partners’ project Re-Imagine seeks to begin doing this work. Examining how the cultural relationship currently works and how it can be re-invented for the future is important as, ultimately, cultural relationships underpin and shape all kinds of relations, from business networks to the high table of diplomacy.

Writing in, London School of Economic’s Ramachandra Guha agrees, arguing that Britain should stop looking to aid, economics and military hardware but rather to culture, as the source of good relations.

Re-Imagine will attempt to map the cultural relationship between India and the UK. We have begun the work, with workshop events in London and Chennai already haven taken place. Keep up to date on the project website, and don’t hesitate to get in contact if you are interested in learning more.


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