Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU), popularly called Brexit, will turn the former imperial power into a second-class power, according to former Indian diplomat Bhaswati Mukherjee.
Speaking here at the launch of her book "India and EU: An Insider’s View", published by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA), Mukherjee said that once Britain exits the EU in March 2019, it will find itself in a post-Second World War, post-colonial situation and "become a second class power in the world order".
Having spent much of her career dealing with Europe, Mukherjee, who has served as Indian Ambassador to the Netherlands, averred that Britain was the cause for much of the impediments in the development of ties between India and Europe.
She said that even as the EU and India were negotiating a Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA), Britain kept putting impediments under pressure from the US in a balance of power game.
Negotiations for the BTIA started in 2007 but were put on hold in 2015. In all, 16 rounds of negotiations have been held.
Those in the know say that after India renounced its bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with all countries, investments from European nations are now not protected. India has terminated all BITs following a new BIT model New Delhi released in December 2015.
The 28 EU member states have now passed on the responsibility of investment protection negotiations to the EU.
EU Ambassador to India Tomasz Kozlowski, who was at the book launch ceremony, said the EU was ready to resume negotiations with India for the BTIA.
"We perceive India as a major growing economy," he said. "For us, India is an emerging global partner with a major role in a multipolar world."
Stating that the EU was India’s largest trading partner and investor, Kozlowski said that Brussels and New Delhi were continuing to work for the conclusion of the BTIA.
French Ambassador Alexendre Ziegler, who was also present, said that if India and the EU have lost a battle, it was the battle of perception.
He said that the image of India was deteriorating in the European Commission as New Delhi was perceived as a difficult partner.
"But the reality of the EU and India relationship is that there are very big opportunities," Ziegler said.
Launching the book, Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Puri, a former diplomat himself, said the book was a must read for all those in the government engaging with Europe.
He felt that the potential – and interest – in the India-EU collaboration would be much more when India becomes a $5-trillion economy.
He said India’s development challenges were of a magnitude which somebody sitting at the EU headquarters "probably finds it difficult to comprehend".>