Delivering an emphatic rebuttal to some British parliamentarians who have questioned India’s democratic credentials, UK PM Boris Johnsontells Times Now’s Rahul Shivshankar, “I don’t think it’s the job of one country to preach to another.” Excerpts from the interview
Some, including MPs in Britain, have questioned the quality of India’s democracy. What do you make of this?
I don’t think it’s the job of one country to preach to another. India is an incredible country, with 1.3 billion people, the biggest democracy in the world. Nobody can say India is not a democracy, it’s an extraordinary place. And, above all, it is ever-more important in a world where the growth of the future is going to be in the Indo-Pacific, that’s where it’s all happening and that is why the UK is tilting towards the Indo-Pacific, so India’s role as the guardian of democratic values in that area is even more important. That’s why we want to develop our friendship and our partnership.
India has taken an independent stand on the Ukraine issue, putting us at odds with the US and the UK. Does that bother you?
It doesn’t because, like you, I know the history. And, nobody can underestimate the importance of that and the relationship that has been. But, on the other hand, as I have said, India has come out and said some strong stuff. I would make the case, and I’ll say it again, that Vladimir Putin has blundered catastrophically in what he has done, and, if anything, it is going to make Russia a kind of satrap of China and it will be a long-term issue for us all to think about. But, the big picture is that in a world where autocracies can do unsettling things, you need to have ever-greater collaboration, partnership, and friendship between democracies and that’s why it was so important that PM Modi was at (invited to) the G7 and why this partnership and the 2030 roadmap that we have for the UK and India is so important. And we’re going to make sure, and I hope, as a result of my conversations today and all the work that we have done in the last few weeks and months that this will be the beginning of a really serious body of work between our teams and the teams here in Delhi.
You’ve talked about autocracies and the world facing problems from them. Which ones, specifically?
There are two big ones, and they occupy most of the Asian and Eurasian landmass. They are Russia and China. We need to look at the positives that we can build on together. There are some anxieties, there are lots of risks, but there is also an opportunity for a huge amount of collaboration. And that’s why there is something new and dynamic in this partnership. When you look at what’s happening here in India, today, you can see a country which is being rebuilt in a very exciting way. The ‘Make in India’ agenda is a good one, we have some similar ideas in the UK, and we want to work together in a partnership.
China’s territorial ambitions pose a challenge to India. Do you condemn the Chinese incursions and its behaviour?
We always condemn breaches of territorial integrity, and that’s why I condemn so strongly what happened in Ukraine. I think we need to learn the lessons of how autocracies behave. AUKUS is an example of the way the UK wants to work together with friends and partners in the Indo-Pacific but I stress that it is not an exclusionary thing. We want to work ever more intensively with India.