The Conservative Government has failed to treat its relationship with India as a true partnership, British Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn said on the >eve of Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to India . Corbyn called for the relationship to be imbued with “respect,” and pledged that a Labour government would adopt a very different policy to the Tories on immigration, in a wide-ranging interview with the Hindu on Saturday, that covered topics ranging from his vision of bilateral relations in post Brexit Britain to nuclear weapons and caste discrimination.
British Opposition Leader Jeremy Corbyn has attacked the Conservative government’s approach to bilateral relations with India, and set out his vision for a relationship imbued with “respect,” as Prime Minister Theresa May prepares to head to New Delhi for her first bilateral visit outside the EU. The British government was failing to treat its relationship with India as a true partnership, Labour leader Corbyn told The Hindu in a wide-ranging interview on Saturday that covered topics ranging from his vision of bilateral relations in post Brexit Britain to nuclear weapons and caste discrimination.
“[The government] looks at India as a place to do business in and that’s fine but I’m not sure they fully appreciate that a partnership is something that you have to work two ways on,” he said pointing to the government’s tough regime governing student visas, which limits the ability of students from India and outside the EU to gain work experience after their education.
A Labour government would fully restore the right of students from non-EU countries to gain work experience in Britain after their studies were completed.
“There has been a huge contribution by Indian intellectuals to Britain… back to the 1920. We can learn a lot and share a lot. Lets have respect.” He was also highly critical of the “unfair” crackdown on English-language students, which has seen hundreds of students from India and beyond deported from Britain’s shores. “I want us to be a welcoming place. I lead a party that is proud to be part of a multicultural, multilingual society in Britain,” he said. A Labour government would also tackle the “unfair” rules, and high-income threshold that made it hard for family members from India to move to Britain. He also lambasted the government’s plans to make it harder for foreign doctors to work in the country. “I think the contribution that Indian doctors made to Britain is phenomenal. The idea that the NHS could somehow survive without foreign doctors is simply untenable.”
He described as “utterly disgusting” the anti immigrant sentiment that has whipped up since the referendum vote, and has been of concern to all immigrant communities in Britain, and called for cross community cooperation to challenge it. “The only way to deal with that irrational vile behavior is to stand up with all communities. I want us to work together and recognize the enormous contribution made by people who have made their homes in Britain,” he said. ”I say to people across Britain who think its ok to blame minorities: all you have done is build hatred, you haven’t built houses or schools or trained doctors.”
Corbyn, welcomed the high court decision earlier this week, which will require the government to consult Parliament before triggering a Brexit. “The genie is out of the bottle and I think there is inevitably going to be a parliamentary discussion on this,” he said, pointing to his party’s objectives for including market access, the protection of workers rights and environmental protection into the exit process.
Workers rights and environmental protection would also be at the forefront of any future trade deal between India and post-Brexit Britain, he said. “There has to be a clear trade strategy for India. As someone who has had the pleasure of visiting India on a number of occasions, I have been impressed with the high level of practical innovative skill that there is in all Indian towns and villages that no longer exist in Europe. I think Europe can learn a bit from that.”
Here is the full transcript of the interview:
As Ms. May prepares to head to India, what is your message to India, and how do we build things like social justice into that relationship?
My message would be I have been to India a number of times myself and love and respect the country. I lead a party that is proud to be part of a multicultural, multilingual society in Britain and the inner London constituency I represent has university students from all over the world. Only yesterday I was with a group of students very concerned about their future in Britain because of the government’s — in my view — unfair behaviour towards students studying the English language here. I want us to be a welcoming place and think the growing links between our universities is wonderful. The way we make advances in education, and research is by sharing. We should look at India as a partner.
Does the British government treat India as a partner?
They look at India as a place to do business in and that’s fine but I’m not sure they fully appreciate that a partnership is something where you have to work two ways. Encouraging British students to study in India and making sure Indian students can stay here to get work experience before they decide what their next step is. There is a huge contribution of Indian intellectuals to Britain and the Labour Party, even back to the 1920s. We can learn and share a lot. Lets have some respect.
Brexit has unleashed anti-immigrant sentiment. What is the way to tackle this?
It’s utterly disgusting. The only way to deal with that irrational, vile behaviour is to stand up with all communities. What I did a week after the Brexit vote was organise locally a very large meeting of all communities and invited all to speak. I had Muslim, Hindu, Christian, Jewish speakers, people of no particular faith. We are one community and we should stand together. I say to the people who think its ok to blame minorities: all you build is hatred, you haven’t built houses, schools or trained any doctors. I want us to work together and recognize the enormous contribution made by people who have made their homes in Britain.
How would your immigration policy differ from the government’s?
I would restore the right of students to undertake work experience. If you become a doctor, architect, lawyer, then you need time to build it up. The other issue is around family reunion: the income level set is often unrealistically high and there is a lot of stress for families. On doctors, the government should recognise that without foreign doctors, the NHS would collapse. I think the contribution that Indian doctors have made to Britain is phenomenal. I want to develop and improve the NHS but the idea that you could somehow survive without foreign doctors is simply untenable. I advise any of those who think it could to visit any hospital and see who is working there.
What lessons does your victory in two Labour Party elections have for left wing movements across the world?
That if we don’t challenge the economic orthodoxy that drives down the welfare state, we disappear as the Left and we disappear as a social democratic force. I think with our two wins we have shown just how strong the feeling is that there has to be a political and economic alternative. Our two victories were completely against the odds with very little support from the media and the establishment yet we got elected and our party membership is going up to 600,000. I think that says something about our appeal.
With parliamentary approval for Brexit looking increasingly likely, what will you be pushing for?
Our priorities are one: open market access to Europe; two: the protection of the working time directive and workers rights protections achieved through Europe and three: environmental protection regulations. The court ruling doesn’t necessarily make a big difference to the timetable but does mean Parliament will have to have a say. The genie is out of the bottle and I think there is inevitably going to be a parliamentary discussion on this. We are also building strong and close relations with socialist parties and trade unions across Europe.
As a long-time opponent of nuclear weapons what is your take on current India-Pakistan relations. What is the way forward?
I have spent my life opposing nuclear weapons and have spoken of the need for nuclear disarmament of India and Pakistan. We need the voice of peace from both countries. It does mean reducing tensions. I hope there can be improved relations by the de-escalation of tensions and taking nuclear weapons off the board.
What kind of a deal will Britain want to reach with India post-Brexit?
The traditional EU trade agreements have usually included a human element to it, which we would want and I would want to see environmental protection strengthened. We need to have more respect for workers rights and the environment. There has to be a clear trade strategy for India. As someone who has had the pleasure of visiting India on a number of occasions, I have been impressed with the high level of practical, innovative skill that there is in all Indian towns and villages that no longer exist in Europe. I think Europe can learn a bit from that.
You have been a longstanding campaigner for Dalit rights and including anti-cast discrimination measures into U.K. Equality legislation. What do you make of the U.K. government’s consultation on whether it should be included?
It’s the longest consultation that has ever been. I want it to be part of the Equalities Act. [Shadow Chancellor] John McDonnell and I moved a successful backbench amendment to the Equalities Bill in 2010, which required the government to undertake research and that if there was credible evidence of caste discrimination it should be included as a regulation. I hope it will be achieved. I have been the chair of the Dalit Solidarity Network and greatly admire Dr. Ambedkar and fully recognise the strengths of the law in India on this. I raised the issue with PM Modi when he was here—we talked about ending discrimination at a practical level.
What did he reply?
He said what the law and Constitution was. I pointed out the issue was about implantation at a local level and he listened carefully. We are all human beings. We can all make a contribution, and poverty and discrimination is a terrible waste of the talents of brilliant people.