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Friday, June 21, 2024

From BBC, refugee crisis to FTA: Hypocritical perfidy of British political class and India’s colonial hangover

Even though the fear of accusations of racial motivation and increasing Islamophobia, has seized the UK, like the Covid pandemic; the fault lies in the situation largely within India, which remains in awe of its colonial rulers.

Britain’s Indian-origin Home Secretary, the Home Minister, Suella Braverman, a great admirer of the country’s blood soaked imperial past, had recently announced boat people coming to its shores across the channel would automatically be disqualified from claiming asylum. The idea enjoys widespread support of ordinary voters, fed up with young migrant men of overwhelmingly Muslim heritage being housed near their homes and at unconscionable cost to the taxpayer. 

But, it provoked a storm of protest from the woke intellectual class that dominates public discourse in Britain. Such is the influence of their ideology that the country’s leading football commentator invoked Nazism to denounce the policy and protesters have assembled outside the Westminster parliament. The imputation of Nazism to the British government of Rishi Sunak has a delicious irony since the same slanderous abuse is the routine default of segments of the British political class and the media against the government of Narendra Modi.

The government evidently bullied the BBC to suspend the sports commentator, demonstrating that the benighted and besieged broadcaster was basically an unashamed state mouthpiece. It confirmed once and for all that the slanderous BBC documentary against Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, was part of the wider orchestrated Anglo American campaign to discredit him. Of course provoking Indian Muslims to do their worst has been the imperial strategy since the nineteenth century to destabilise Indian self-assertion. 

The suspension of the sports commentator was hastily withdrawn after faux public outrage, though, he has also refused to apologise for his absurd accusation. But it emphatically reaffirms that the allegedly independent BBC is a creature of its political masters in Whitehall.

In fact, the incumbent BBC governor was appointed by former prime minister Boris Johnson, a descendant of the Ottoman nobility, after he arranged a massive line of credit for him. Boris Johnson’s reckless populism seems to be the divine instrument that might destroy what remains of historic Britain. The BBC governor’s future is now in doubt though another establishment crony will no doubt be found with ease. Nevertheless, the slander against India and its incumbent Modi dispensation will continue unabated.

This is the same British social class, its academic ideologues and most of its very pedestrian India specialists that had excoriated India’s CAA with abandon. I recall debating an Oxford Indian academic on a flagship BBC Radio programme who effectively demanded the abolition of India’s border controls with its neighbours. Just one dimension of the ideological and informational warfare Britain remains engaged in against the incumbent Indian government though it only adopted a policy proposed by previous governments. Now an ugly row over immigration has engulfed the country that exposes its hypocrisy and deep fault lines in its own relations with the outside world. 

While British academics and its chronically anti-India media are in permanent chorus, effectively demanding India to legalise the status of all illegal Bangladeshi economic migrants and admit distressed Pakistanis too, Britain is trying to shut its own doors to unwelcome Muslim migrants. Although these asylum seekers are far fewer in number than the tsunami of illegal migrants faced by India they still amount to tens of thousands.

The British Nationality and Borders Bill, is a desperate last throw of the dice, opening a much larger can of worms that will hinder its effective implementation. The trickiest is the inability to send asylum seekers, arriving on boats across the English Channel, back to France. Such a measure is only allowed between EU members and asylum seekers can be deported to the EU country where they first arrived. 

However, it is to be noted that the issue has prompted bitter acrimony between France and Italy whose sea borders are closest to the oceans where asylum seekers initially arrive and between Greece and the rest of the EU as well. But Britain cannot deport asylum seekers back without the consent of the EU decision making apparatus and France cannot unilaterally agree to accept their return.

The somewhat bizarre agreement to deport them temporarily to Rwanda only pertains to modest numbers and the costs of sending them there are unsustainable. Besides, the British National and Borders Bill’s policy might fall foul of the European Court of Human Rights, which will oblige Britain to rescind its treaty of accession to it. There is a fear that such a British response might jeopardize the Northern Ireland Protocol painfully negotiated recently by Rishi Sunak to much national jubilation.

The asylum issue is a real hot potato that none of Britain’s political parties appear able to handle. Rishi Sunak and his cynically ambitious Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, have identified illegal migration as an issue on which decisive action might shore up electoral support for the Conservative Party. They’re threatened with consignment to political oblivion at the impending general elections of 2024 without some major gimmick. 

Unfortunately, the solutions are improbable while the electorate continues to simmer with rage at the arrival of thousands of able bodied young Muslim men to the country and costing huge sums of money to house in four star hotels. Yet, there was no protest when Ukrainian war refugees were recently admitted to the UK though the generosity of the country appears to be flagging, much like elsewhere in Europe.

The arrival of large numbers of able-bodied young Muslim men, demanding asylum, is another reason that causes deep unease for reasons not far to seek. Since the 1990s and it seems even decades earlier, exclusively Pakistani Muslim grooming gangs have been gang raping enormous numbers of underage, mainly white girls though Sikhs and Hindus are also targeted.

It has scandalously transpired that the authorities, including the incumbent Labour Party leadership, were aware of the egregious crimes being committed but looked the other way. One Prime Minister even dismissed the sexual assaults as ‘consensual liaisons’, occurring with the consent of the girls, some as young as twelve years’ age. Worse, investigations were hindered and the families of some complainants threatened with violence by associates of the accused, who suffered no resulting official sanction.

The fear of accusations of racial motivation and increasing Islamophobia, which has seized Britain, like the Covid pandemic, seems to have dictated the allowing of mass gang rape to continue indefinitely without a drastic response from the authorities. Shockingly, despite the prosecution of some –     most have gone scot-free –     the persisting estimated annual number of rapes by grooming gangs is over twenty thousand and almost certainly much higher since rapes are invariably underreported.

The hypocritical perfidy of the British political class and establishment is exposed. Yet, no inconsistency is perceived in relentlessly harassing India with totally incoherent and fabricated but politically consequential accusations of human rights violations. 

The fault lies in the situation largely within India, which remains in awe of its colonial rulers though Britain is now merely a totally compliant vassal of the US. It is also encountering a pretty catastrophic predicament from which escape is highly problematic. An indebted Britain is close to bankruptcy and the population facing extortionate levels of taxation, eye-watering levels of energy bills, accompanied by high levels of inflation for essentials as well as unaffordable housing.

The effective marginal rate of taxation, above the second tranche of twenty percent below £50271, has reached approximately eighty-five percent and even higher if alcohol, fuel and tobacco are configured in it. Monthly winter fuel bills have risen from approximately £140 to £530. Inflation levels on essentials are higher than the fraudulently contrived official retail price index and is nearing 18-20 percent and rents in London are rising rapidly owing to grossly mismanaged housing policies. In addition, there are few signs of economic growth to service current levels of national debt and productivity rises that might help to do so are basically nil.

Yet, in an irony of ironies Britain is simultaneously experiencing a vexatious labour shortage that improved wages are failing to remedy. The current labour shortage was the inevitable result of Brexit which many wished though the referendum was won with a wafer thin slim majority on the back of Boris Johnson’s shamelessly jingoist campaign. His arguments lacked substance or concern for the predicted hugely negative economic outcomes that have duly occurred.

But it proved effective in inflaming Little Englander xenophobia among the disadvantaged in the northern part of the country. Oddly, Britain’s labour shortage is accompanied by almost three million voluntarily unemployed workers between the ages of 18 and 65. Neither are they registered as looking for work or seeking the benefits to which the registered unemployed are entitled. This is an issue affecting other countries, including the post-pandemic USA. 

Labour shortages had prompted Germany to import a million Middle Eastern refugees with fanfare and contrived claims to national humanitarian concerns. It has not proved an unalloyed success, with a spike in sexual and other crimes committed by the migrants and a backlash among native Germans. Britain is not viewing the current surging arrival of refugees as a solution to its own labour shortage, caused by the departure of east Europeans in the aftermath of Brexit.

In fact, the real underlying reason for Brexit was the fear that millions of Muslims, first entering the EU as refugees, would eventually be legally entitled to settle in Britain once they acquired citizenship in EU member countries. Foreign labour is irresistibly drawn to Britain’s flexible labour market and less integrated society that allows communities to easily create space for their cultural practices, often with relatives already settled in the country. 

Britain is thus beset by complex challenges to which there are no immediate answers that also threaten a future of long-term economic stagnation and a burdensome national debt that is dramatically impoverishing its population already. The inexplicable paradox is that ever-faithful India might just ride to the rescue and resume the Dominion status the duo Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi negotiated and misrepresented as independence in 1947. 

It is hoped that a free trade treaty with India will reverse Britain’s inevitable economic and political decline. The subterfuge is to recreate the 1932 Imperial Preference that sought to rescue Britain on an earlier occasion at the expense of its colonies.

Some in India’s Ministry of Commerce almost hastily signed the Indo-UK FTA after Diwali last year, imagining it would be some sort of coup despite the serious pitfalls being pointed out by others, including myself. 

However, wiser counsel has prevailed since India’s economic policy is in the hands of three exceptionally capable economists. It might be added in passing that the idea India should sacrifice its emerging high-tech sectors in exchange for temporary work visas for Indian students in the UK and some gains in clothing exports is testament to folly. 

The prime minister was once also inveigled into raising the temporary student work visa issue with his counterpart during a visit to the UK by some self-interested local amateur. It is embarrassing that such a minor question was not left to Joint Secretary level negotiations. On clothing exports at the expense of Bangladesh and Vietnam, the wider implications have evidently not been thought through. Outcompeting Bangladesh’s clothing exports would negatively impact women’s employment in that country and catalyse more religious militancy and increased infiltration into India. So much for joined-up policy making!

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Dr. Gautam Sen
Dr. Gautam Sen
Dr. Gautam Sen taught international political economy at the London School of Economics and Political Science for over two decades.

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