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Tuesday, 8 January, 2002, 09:35 GMT
Can Britain be a force for good?
UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has set out his vision for Britain's role in the world after arriving in India on the second leg of his diplomatic tour of South Asia.

Mr Blair told business leaders in the Indian city of Bangalore that the UK's past meant it had "unparalleled connections" with countries across the globe, and was ready to take a leading role in the fight against terrorism.

He said the days of empire were long gone but a new "modern foreign policy" for Britain was emerging.

"We are not a super power, but we can act as a pivotal partner, acting with others to make sense of this global interdependence and make it a force for good, for our own nation and the wider world," he said.

Can Britain be a force for good in the world? Do you agree with Mr Blair's comments? Do you think his current tour of South Asia will increase the UK's profile on the international stage?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

Blair is meant to be PM of the UK, not the world. He should mind his own business and get back to sorting the many problems we have back here and let the UN sort out the world's problems. He is only doing it for publicity and to boost his already massive ego.
John, UK

It's quite obvious why most of Europe regards the UK as being isolationist

Chris, UK
From some of the views posted here, it's quite obvious why most of Europe regards the UK as being isolationist. I am ashamed that so many of my countrymen don't feel any regard to the rest of the world and making it a better place - not just their own backyards. I am not a Tony Blair supporter but perhaps I am just not old enough to remember when there were any other British PMs who have served with so much distinction and humanity in my own lifetime.
Chris, UK

It seems that the English believe their Prime Minister should tend the home fires as opposed to trying to put out fires in South Asia. I tend to agree with them since he seems to have no new ideas to solve decades old problems.
Chetan Patel, USA

It is difficult to understand what Tony Blair hopes to achieve with his shuttle diplomacy. I appreciate his honesty and initiative in wanting to do good. But the Indian people will be hard pressed to trust him. India had been agonisingly sidelined and never listened to for several years when evidence was given for the terrorist activities carried out in the camps of Afghanistan under Taleban with the support of Pakistan.
Sam Kannan, UK

We are a fortunate country and we should help where we can

Catherine, UK/ Greece, UK
Like so many other families, I miss my Dad who is currently part of 'the force for good' serving in Bosnia. We have to increase funding for our forces if we are going to take this role seriously. We are a fortunate country and we should help where we can, even if we do miss our families when they are away serving. I stand by Mr Blair in his ambition.
Catherine, UK/ Greece, UK

I am a medical student from London currently working in a hospital in Bangalore. Having seen Tony Blair out and about in the city and read about his talks in local papers I can say that I am extremely proud of the way that our Prime Minister has conducted himself since September 11th. He has emerged as an important diplomat on the world stage and even though Britain is not a super-power, Mr Blair has shown that it has much to give when it comes to global issues that affect us all.
Muhunthan, UK

Where has Mr Blair been for the last 50 years or more? The UK has long been a force for good in the world. The problem Mr Blair will face if he continues promoting ever closer integration in Europe is that Britain's foreign policy decisions will be taken over by Brussels. If Europe fully develops its rapid reaction force it will inevitably mean a coordinated defence and foreign policy for Europe. This will preclude our PM strutting around Asia or any other continent rediscovering our independence.
Edwin, UK

It's good that TB wants to see Britain doing good in the world but he needs to ensure that it's more than just pleasing words. The work of the Department of International Development is valuable but it is undermined by the business of selling arms to dodgy regimes in order to maintain jobs and votes at home. Similarly his credibility as a force for good is undermined by his adherence to the US foreign policy principle of "expediency always outweighs even-handedness in matters of justice".
John Small, UK

He seems to be falling into the trap of apparently ignoring domestic issues

Neil Small, Scotland
The PM is an excellent statesman when it comes to foreign affairs but he seems to be falling into the trap of apparently ignoring domestic issues while treading the world stage. Full praise for his recent efforts, but please get a grip at home - now please.
Neil Small, Scotland

Maybe Tony wants to try for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Vincent Yau, UK

If Tony is happy flying around the world trying to help calm a potential very serious situation, let him get on with it. The last thing we all need is another war. The world (as always) is in a very delicate situation and needs diplomacy to help avoid even bigger problems. I wish people here in Britain would have enough sense to sort their own problems out without feeling they need Tony back here to do it for them.
Andrew, UK

The cynic in me says that he is a CV bagger looking to his next job.
Karen, UK

How can Britain be a force for good in this world when it chooses to remain the United States' lapdog? I have tremendous respect for a number of British journalists and politicians who are not afraid to voice their disagreement with the British government's policies. Britain can play a positive role in the world but this is not going to happen until the country starts having a considerably more independent foreign policy.
NJ, Hong Kong

Tony Blair is to be commended for publicly announcing his intentions for Britain to be a force for good in the world. If only other world leaders followed his lead in such a declaration.
John Finn, USA

He is proving to be a great leader

Lidia Bakker Riva, Peru
My opinion of Tony Blair has changed a lot - for the good. The way he has behaved since 11 September made me realise that he indeed is a great leader. I am very confident in his efforts in trying to solve international problems, especially the troubles between India and Pakistan. And I think he has done a lot for the UK. He is proving to be a great leader.
Lidia Bakker Riva, Peru

Britain, the nursery of democracy, is already a force for good. Maintain the tradition. One good move for Britain though would be to re-assess its policies regarding providing a haven for political refugees. Crimes committed in countries with oppressive governments are still crimes.
John, USA

If Britain or any other country, wants to be a force for good, that's fine by me. They can start by opening up their protected markets to the chief exports of developing countries: textiles and agriculture. Put your money where your mouth is.
Rajeev, India/USA

Good on the PM. We have a lot in common with India and Pakistan, with many familial and historic links. You can see the British influence even in the uniforms of the opposing sides, and we should do what we can to prevent a war. I'm with Rajeev though in that what Britain should best do is help these developing Commonwealth countries have full access to European markets. If only we had the same vision for the Commonwealth that other countries have for the European Union.
John, UK

It is our moral responsibility to play a vital role on the world stage

Ross, UK
I find it very inspiring to see the leader of our country taking a stand and helping other countries work through their disputes. We could sit and complain about our own internal problems, but needless to say where would we all be as individuals if we did not receive outside help. The fact of the matter is that Britain can play a vital role on the world stage and it is our moral responsibility to do so. We could make a difference.
Ross, UK

Many of these comments give me some hope. There is a realisation of the hypocrisy of Blair and his government. How I long for change. How I long for honest men and women to run our country.
Paul, UK

Until Britain dismantles its class system, it cannot be a force for good either at home or abroad. Its anachronistic attitude about inherited privilege and its dismissal of merit continues to be an impediment to social progress. Until the monarchy is abolished and all that it represents, Britain will stagnate. The class system breeds anger and discontent and this is evidenced in the high level of violence on the streets. Until England gets the hell out of Ireland, nobody can take it seriously as a force for good.
Virginia Sampey, Australia

The role of PM will eventually become obsolete

Pip, UK
Maybe Blair can't be bothered with the UK any more. We have been given away to the European Federal State by stealth and the role of PM will eventually become obsolete. He now has to think of his next career move. As for comments from Virginia of Australia on Britain getting out of Ireland. There is no Ireland any more. It is Euroland now.
Pip, UK

Maybe once he's sorted out the conflict in Kashmir, he can go help the firefighters in Australia.
James, UK

Mr Blair's visit can prove quite helpful in decreasing the Indo-Pak tension and bringing the two neighbours presently at the brink of war to negotiating table. After the tragic incidents of 11 September, Mr Blair has emerged as a wise statesman and a very good negotiator. He is widely praised and respected in the subcontinent. Leading the peacekeepers in Afghanistan has enhanced the credibility of Britain as a responsible world power. Therefore I am optimistic about Britain proving a force for good.
Dr Abbas , Pakistan

Whatever affects other countries will inevitably affect us

Kelsey, UK
Whatever affects other countries will inevitably affect us. Let's not forget the lessons of September 11 so soon. Who wants a nuclear war in Asia? If Tony Blair can do anything to avert such a tragedy, be it wrapped up in PR or spin doctoring or not, then I applaud him for at least trying. Yes things aren't perfect here but if we neglect international relations and our role in promoting a peaceful and stable world now, what world, what Britain will we all be left with?
Kelsey, UK

If Mr Blair shows true and strategic solidarity with democracies of the world Britain will be a seen as a force for good. But if he ignores all evidence of Pakistan and the ISI being the haven for terrorists then he will lose credibility. One can understand the geopolitical compulsions but one must not lose sight of the long term objectives to end the breeding grounds of terror.
Sanjeev Dandekar, Australia

After reading all these comments, I'd like someone to explain to me how Tony Blair was voted in for a second term in office.
SJ Sweetman, Australia

Just as long as it allows him to keep on strutting along, grinning inanely

Adam, England
Once again Phoney Tony has gone to impose his "vision" on another part of the world - this time India and Pakistan. Does he think he's Jesus now? If so, perhaps he'd like to perform a few miracles here in the UK. Such as resurrect a few of those manifesto promises. We are being sacrificed on the altar by one man's ambition. I never thought I'd say it about any politician, but he's worse than Thatcher. In fact, he's getting dangerous as he now thinks nothing at all of putting us all in the firing line. Just as long as it allows him to keep on strutting along, grinning inanely.
Adam, England

Tony Blair may have British domestic interests at the forefront of his mind when making an effort to encourage discussion and ease tensions between Pakistan and India. Any war between these two nations would surely result in troubles between the large ethnic groups from these countries in the UK. Blair may help avoid trouble at home as well as abroad for which we should all be grateful.
Steve, UK

His aims may well be admirable

David, England
It seems that Mr Blair has realised that he can do nothing to turn around Britain's failings and has decided to run away instead. His aims may well be admirable but sooner or later he is going to have to use all of his diplomatic skills to explain to the British people why our public services are a mess, why more of them are in the hands of the private sector and why even with private financing it is costing the taxpayer even more money.
David, England

I have to agree with David. Tony Blair's obsession with meddling in other country's affairs should be a real concern for us all. It's blatantly obvious that the Labour government has no idea how to sort out the mess that we are in. Is that why he's so keen for us to join the euro? That way he relinquishes all responsibility and lets the EU take charge. Oh, and he also enhances his saint-like image in the eyes of the world.
S McGrath, London

Certainly Blair isn't a force for good in the UK - the health service is a shambles, transport a joke and the education system keeps being messed around with. We've serious shortages of people with much needed skills. Get thine backside home Tony and sort out your own country's problems with as much enthusiasm as you demonstrate when tackling world issues. Or isn't that glamorous enough for you? Your administration cannot go on blaming the debacle of the Tory years for the state of the UK.
Helen, UK

Well, I believe that it's time for Britain to play a role in promoting peace and supporting Britain's ex-colonies.
Yahya, New Zealand

It is disheartening to read the lack of self-confidence expressed in these posts. Great Britain is a mighty, proud country that has much to offer the world. I hope the people around Mr Blair have more nerve than you all.
Robert, Tennessee, USA

Let the Swedes sort out the world. They have a very successful culture that blends socialist and market force ideals. They also know how to run a football team, businesses and pop bands. Blair should come and fix England while Sweden applies its template world-wide - the USA and UK included, not just India and Pakistan.
Alex, UK

Bon voyage Monsieur

Rony Sheridan, UK
If I was in Tony's shoes I would probably take my time away from home too. After all, the mess at home is just too demanding and depressing. Only a good break will make him realise that mess won't go by itself nor will the nation easily forget smiley photos across the world put beside the grime pictures of commuters at home. Bon voyage Monsieur.
Rony Sheridan, UK

The best way for any nation such as the UK or US to be a "force for good" is to run their own societies effectively. By demonstrating that free markets and liberal democracies can provide domestic peace, prosperity and well-being, they will achieve far more than they can by lecturing foreigners. Mr Blair and Mr Bush both need to keep this in mind.
Peter Nelson, USA

Isn't it ironic that Blair is trying to work on bringing India and Pakistan together to peace when historically the British had practiced a "divide and rule" policy in the sub continent?
Latha, India

Has anyone ever told Tony that he has a foreign secretary? If Tony Blair wants a United States of Europe as indicated by his pro-euro stance how can Britain play a pivotal role in the world when all our foreign policy is determined by Brussels as will inevitably happen if we join the euro?
Andrew C, England, UK

It's just more pretence from a government lacking any moral backbone

Daniel Brett, Cambridge, England
Of course every government will claim to be a "force for good". What administration wouldn't? The question is, what does this actually mean? Judging by the track record of the Blair administration, it obviously doesn't mean cutting back arms sales or putting fair trade before free trade or redistributing wealth from the mega corporations to the one billion people living in absolute poverty. What have we actually seen the government do on the world stage? It has conspired with other rich states against developing countries in trade rounds and used gunboat diplomacy to enforce its will. It's just more pretence from a government lacking any moral backbone which prefers the easy option of military action instead of any imaginative and long lasting solution to the world's problems.
Daniel Brett, Cambridge, England

How can the leader of a country in such a sorry state as the UK even dare to lecture other states on their problems? Physician, heal thyself.
Giles, England

Mr Blair would do well not to confuse himself with his maker.
Andrew Allen, UK

It must be true, the Archbishop of Downing Street has spoken.
Darren Stephens, UK

Hope that Tony and Cherie are having a nice holiday out there in India and Pakistan as neither country has anything to do with Britain. It's just an excuse for fleeing his duties of serving as Prime Minister of Britain. He would be much better getting Britain in order first, or do his England duties come second to his holidays abroad?
Ronald Nuttall, England

Does this mean Mr Blair thinks that prior Labour administrations were not forces for good?

Mark Williams, UK
I had no idea that Britain had ever been anything other than a force for good. Does this mean Mr Blair thinks that Britain was not a force for good from 1997 to 2001, or that prior Labour administrations were not forces for good? It strikes me as an extremely self-regarding statement and it demeans all those other nations and people who have worked for the benefit of others without resorting to the aerial bombardment of Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Mark Williams, UK

All this visit will do is boost Blair's ego and make him look as though he is doing the right thing on the International stage. I don't believe in upsetting other countries but I also don't care much for them when we have problems of our own to tackle. Leave them to it.
Chris Gower, London, England

Maybe if Mr Blair could demonstrate how he has handled important issues in the UK, such as health, transport, immigration and so on, then other nations may take him more seriously. Sadly I fear he won't be able to do that. This is, on the face of it, just political posturing to try and make himself look like the caring person he wants us to believe he is.
Nick, UK

The British are far too bitter and pessimistic to be a force for good in the world.
Franklin, Maryland, USA

Does Franklin from Maryland not remember World Wars I and II?
Paul Kenyon, England

Franklin, Maryland, I'm afraid our problem is that we are realistic and down to earth. The British do not seem to be swayed by homegrown propaganda and idealism as the US citizens do.
Martin, UK

Franklin, Maryland, USA: Bitter and pessimistic? That would be prejudice, correct? The Brits are proud and determined people. Try not to confuse it with bitterness. Anyway, the UK can be a force for good. Bear that in mind when we helped in the Gulf, Franklin.
Miles, UK

The best way a country can act as a "force for good" is by setting a good example - primarily through putting its own house in order.
Richard N, UK

What's going on with Blair? Is he going all Americanised on us and trying to save the world? I think we need to concentrate on home issues before attempting to stick our noses in other countries' business.
Max, England

The British Forces are horrendously under funded and cannot carry out these commitments

Andy Turner, UK
If Blair believes the UK should become a pivotal force for good then he should put his money where his mouth is. The British Forces are horrendously under funded and cannot carry out these commitments over any significant period of time. If Blair is enjoying his egotistical international spin, great, but let's be honest, the rest of the world is not fooled. We aren't a significant world power any more. Investment in the armed forces is the only way I'm afraid.
Andy Turner, UK

In some sense Britain does act as a force for good in the world, in others its record is less commendable. For instance, Britain and the Labour government in particular should be praised for the recent work carried out in developing countries through the Department for International Development. However, less positive is the fact that Britain continues to impose crippling sanctions upon Iraq which are devastating the livelihoods of innocent Iraqi citizens. They should not be punished for our grievances with Saddam Hussein. Let's see more of the positive development and peace-building being undertaken by Tony Blair and his government, but let's not operate a double standard. Crippling sanctions against other countries must be stopped if Britain is to be recognised as a force for good.
Ruth Gilbert, UK

I believe we should be recognised globally as a friendly and powerful nation but I also believe that charity begins at home. Tony Blair needs to spend more time in the UK and sort out our domestic problems before worrying about perceptions amongst our international friends. We can be a force but our immediate focus needs to begin in our own country.
Mark Blackburn, London, England

Who will decide what is good and what is not? Can we sort out this country first? NHS, transport and a real democracy where your views are taken into account are what is needed first and foremost.
Andi, England

As long as the rest of the world doesn't need help with its transport, health service, education or police force.
Rosemary, UK

Tony Blair only has his own self interest in mind. He has failed miserably with the Irish problem. What makes him think he can make any difference in the India/Pakistan troubles? As British PM he should be concentrating his efforts on the UK rather than trying to solve international problems about which he knows very little.
Charlie, UK

See also:

04 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Blair to outline UK's new world role

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