London, Apr 8 (PTI) India can play a significant role in building up relationships within South Asia and with Africa at the upcoming Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), the leader of the Liberal Democrat party in Britain has said.

The meeting will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in London on April 19-20.

Sir Vince Cable also called on the UK, which is the current Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth, to play a modest role, which is at par with countries like India.

I think it is very important that Britain plays a modest role [at CHOGM] and doesn’t try to dominate. There is no appetite for bringing back the Empire. It should play an equal and constructive role with other countries like India, said Cable.

Describing India as a major economic power , he added: India is now emerging as the third or fourth major economy in the world, so what it does in terms of trade and investment has a major impact on the rest of the world. It could play a very significant role in building up relationships within South Asia and with Africa, because there is an important Indian diaspora there. The 74-year-old veteran, who worked as an economic adviser in the Commonwealth Secretariat in the 1980s and recalls his first CHOGM in New Delhi when Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister, sounded a note of caution over expectations from the organisation.

The Commonwealth is a useful organisation, good for networking and practical cooperation but it is not a unified political body, never will be. It is not a trade grouping and it never will be, he said.

The former business secretary in the UK government and leading anti-Brexit campaigner within the country’s political circles also dismissed prospects of major post-Brexit trade agreements with countries outside the European Union (EU), like India, as poor .

The governments have several times tried to approach India for special relationships and the Indian view has been that we have to have something in return; notably better visa arrangements, to which the British government has not offered anything, he said.

I don’t think anybody in Britain believes that it would be possible to negotiate trade agreements that remotely compensate for the loss of access to the EU, he added.

Cable, who is currently leading his party’s campaign for the local council elections to be held on May 3 across Britain, urged voters to turn out and vote Lib Dem as it would be seen as a vote on the wider issue of Brexit.

Local elections always tend to have a lower turnout than national elections, but turning out an voting and particularly voting Lib Dem does matter. It will be seen as a vote on the Brexit issue, even though it’s a local election, their vote does count, he said.

The pro-Europe Liberal Democrats, which failed to make significant gains in the 2017 snap General Election under the leadership of Cable’s predecessor Tim Farron, now hope to win the argument in favour of a referendum on the final Brexit deal.

We have to persuade people that it [Brexit] is not inevitable and we have to persuade people that there is a practical way of stopping it, and that’s to demand a referendum or vote on the final deal, said Cable, who believes the local election results will show that the British public opinion is moving in that direction.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.