Ties between India and the UK to be strengthened by Liz Truss
The momentum in India-UK relations is expected to be sustained even if the domestic economic agenda and the conflict in Ukraine would be the incoming British Prime Minister Liz Truss’ initial priorities.
Prime Minister Liz Truss of the United Kingdom is not new to relations with India. She interacted virtually often with Indian policymakers both before as the Boris Johnson government’s international trade secretary and afterwards as the secretary of state. In recent years, she has made several trips to India.
With the adoption of the ambitious “Roadmap 2030,” India-UK relations have already reached the status of “comprehensive strategic partnership.” A fresh push has been given to ties by the expedited bilateral Free Trade Agreement (FTA) discussions and the British “Indo-Pacific tilt.” India presented a “huge, major potential,” according to Truss, who served as trade minister, and “UK and India are at a sweet spot of the trade dynamics.”
She stated that “operating with India will assist boost the UK’s position as a global centre for digital and services” when she announced the India-UK Enhanced Trade Partnership (ETP) at the beginning of 2021. During her campaign, Truss stated that she is “very, very devoted” to the UK-India connection while speaking with the Conservative Friends of India.
She becomes the UK’s fourth prime minister in six years as the country deals with significant domestic and international problems. There is a huge rift in the Conservative Party. Disruptions brought on by Brexit are still present. The Ukraine conflict, rising energy costs, and unheard-of inflation are all threatening the post-pandemic economy. She will thus prioritize managing the party’s many factions and unveiling a new growth and energy plan.
In the campaign, she said that her strategy for growth is “based on Conservative ideas: tax reduction, supply-side reform, and deregulation.” She now desires to “turn Britain into an ambition nation,” emphasizing the economy, the use of energy, and the National Health Service (NHS). Her administration will have to release more concrete information about these plans in the coming days.
Along with a more general alignment of India’s economic and strategic interests with British post-Brexit ambitions, a bilateral FTA is one of the key deliverables anticipated. An agreement must be reached before Diwali, which was set during Johnson’s early-year visit to India.
Indian decision-makers are optimistic that a deal would be reached before the deadline because 19 out of 26 chapters have already been concluded. Even if we can get a consensus by the end of 2022, it will still be a significant accomplishment considering that talks only got underway in January. India’s other trade discussions, notably those with the European Union, may benefit from a larger template that an FTA with the UK may offer. However, if discussions go on, it will affect the momentum that the recently inked free trade agreements with Australia and the United Arab Emirates have generated.
Countries often agree to trade accords when the economy is doing better. When inflation in the UK is at a 40-year high and the economy is on the verge of recession, the situation is not favourable. The end of discussions may be delayed by economic challenges, a change in British leadership, and favourable pronouncements from Indian policymakers.
Despite much discussion about the UK’s Indo-Pacific inclination, the conflict in Ukraine is currently London’s main concern. Indian and British perspectives diverge in this regard. When Truss travelled to India in March as part of Britain’s “wider diplomatic drive” against the crisis in Ukraine, she hoped that Indian attitudes against Russia would shift. Additionally, she visited India at the same time as Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, who was in New Delhi. Sharp discussions on sanctions against Russia were seen between Truss and Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar.
Convergence on many foreign policy issues might not happen naturally because she is currently extremely hawkish on Russia. This may affect the slowly growing defence and security cooperation between India and the UK. Priorities for the domestic economy, as well as changing geopolitical trends, such as China’s growing assertiveness, have boosted relations between India and the UK.
Because of Johnson’s tight relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, many of the new projects were made possible. Truss will find it simple to stick with the same plan as she was involved in the process. She could be preoccupied right now with Russia and internal economic problems. However, the general course of India-UK relations has already been decided. When the bilateral FTA is signed, this will be further enhanced.
Who is the new British prime minister, and why was Boris Johnson replaced?
Liz Truss will serve as the country’s new prime minister. The Conservative Party has elected her as its next leader after a two-month election. The Queen will officially ask Truss to form a government there, so all that is left to do is for her to fly to Balmoral in Scotland.
In a little more than six years, Truss will become the fourth prime minister and leader of the Conservative Party. The third woman to serve as prime minister under Queen Elizabeth, she is the position’s sixteenth incumbent.
In 2010, when she was first elected to Parliament, she quickly rose to the top. She was appointed environment secretary four years later and joined David Cameron’s cabinet. She continued to work for Theresa May as the justice secretary, then for Johnson as the foreign secretary and chief secretary to the Treasury.
A self-described economic libertarian, Truss. In the 2016 UK referendum on EU membership, she enthusiastically backed staying in, but she afterwards switched to being a born-again leaver. She has espoused the virtues of Brexit and taken a noticeably harsh position towards Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.
In the race for president in 2022, Truss’ particular blend of economic libertarianism, political optimism, and hawkishness was pivotal. Although she made a lot of mistakes and U-turns, her tax-cutting plan and her former commitment to Johnson provided her with a significant advantage over Sunak. As the next prime minister, Truss must deal with several difficult obstacles, including escalating inflation, exorbitant energy prices, declining public services, ongoing industrial action, and a Scottish administration that favours independence. She has to deal with the conflict in Ukraine and tense ties with the European Union outside.
Why did Boris Johnson resign?
Boris Johnson, the former prime minister of the Conservative Party who was forced to resign in July, will be succeeded by Truss. In response to Johnson’s poor handling of a controversy involving Chris Pincher, the former deputy chief whip for the government, several political appointees and ministers, including Sajid Javid, the health secretary, and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the exchequer, resigned in unison.
After being charged with abusing two men sexually at a private members club, he quit that position. While denying the charges and continuing to be an independent MP, Pincher said he had “drunk much too much” and humiliated himself. More alleged sexual misbehaviour in the past has surfaced, raising concerns about what Johnson knew and when.
When Johnson named Pincher as deputy chief whip, Downing Street first claimed that Johnson was aware of these accusations. Later evidence revealed this denial to be untrue. Additionally, Johnson came under fire for delaying the suspension of Pincher from the party and instead acting under strong internal pressure.
However, Johnson’s grip on authority was shaky long before the Pincher incident. His lackadaisical attitude toward norms in public life was exposed by a series of scandals. Party game, disclosures of drunken gatherings in Downing Street in contravention of COVID rules, which finally resulted in police penalties for Johnson and other Conservatives, had prompted calls for him to step down. Johnson’s actions had grown increasingly distracting and unjustifiable. At the beginning of June, a no-confidence vote saw a minimum of 41% of Conservative MPs voting against him.
Another point of contention was Johnson’s alleged lack of direction. Though he might have “got Brexit done,” what would his administration accomplish after that? Although there was a lot of rhetoric about “levelling up,” there wasn’t much actual substance. The impending cost-of-living catastrophe and the perceived turmoil in his Downing Street administration made the issues worse.
Finally, Johnson was now viewed as a political liability. Since the end of 2019, the Conservatives have lagged behind Labour in surveys, and more recently, they have suffered a succession of byelection losses to Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Conservative MPs were concerned, especially those in marginal seats.
Because the Pincher scandal immediately tapped into these causes of unhappiness, it proved catastrophic for Johnson. Johnson’s followers claimed that his party had stabbed him in the back, but after many falls, it turned out that he had just tripped over his blade.
Why have there not been elections?
It was always going to be up to the ruling Conservative party to choose Johnson’s replacement. In a parliamentary system like that of the UK, the current government is established by whichever candidate can win the support of the House of Commons. In actuality, this often refers to the party’s leader who secured the most seats in the most recent general election.
If a prime minister steps down in the middle of a parliamentary session, there is no legal necessity to call a new general election. Instead, the new head of the current ruling party selects the next prime minister. It is not uncommon for “takeover” prime ministers to come into power in this manner. Nine premierships have started midway through a parliament, while eight have started with a victory in a general election since 1945.
Each political party has its own set of guidelines for choosing a new leader. Before 1965, senior party members were consulted before new Conservative leaders were chosen. Up until 1998, only Conservative MPs had the power to elect new leaders. After that, they are chosen in a two-stage process in which MPs choose two candidates before party members, or in the case of the Conservatives, around 180,000 dues-paying members, make the ultimate decision.
In the preliminary round of the race to succeed Johnson, eight people applied. After five rounds of voting among Conservative MPs, Truss, the former foreign secretary, came in second with 113 votes (31.6%), followed by Sunak, the former chancellor, who received 137 votes (38.3%), and Penny Mordaunt, the minister of state for trade policy, who was disqualified with 105 votes (29.3%).
Then came a vote among party members, for which Sunak and Truss lobbied during most of July and the whole month of August. Truss ultimately defeated Sunak by a margin of 57% to 43%.
What comes after that?
The first challenge for Truss will be to create a government. Her relationship with her party will be shaped by who she chooses for her cabinet. Truss was chosen by Conservative members, not by her MPs, and as a result, she won the leadership election. Any honeymoon phase might be short-lived, particularly if the Conservatives keep behind Labour in the polls.
Truss will need to control her party’s expectations for the next general election above everything else. On the legally dubious grounds that they haven’t been elected, every takeover prime minister is met with demands for an instant election.
Takeover prime ministers want the public to give them their mandate at the same time. A general election may be called at any time by Truss. If the Conservatives have a continuous upswing in the polls, Truss will have to decide whether it would be wiser to travel to the nation sooner, knowing that the economy may worsen, or to wait until the very last minute, hoping that things would get better.
If there isn’t such a surge, the calculations are pointless, and the 2019 legislative session is likely to last the entire term. The future British prime minister will thereafter be decided by the electorate no later than January 2025.
Edited by Prakriti Arora