We have just had one of the biggest days in the UK-India bilateral calendar in a while. Not only did June 24 mark the start of this year’s UK-India Week, but it was also the first-ever ‘India Day’ in the Houses of Parliament.
To mark this day, the House of Commons’ Foreign Affairs Committee released its seminal Global Britain and India report, which brought together the findings of an 11-month in-depth inquiry into the ‘missed opportunities’ of the UK-India relationship.
This report, Building Bridges: Reawakening UK-India Ties, warned that the UK is not fully engaging with India as a rising power on the world stage, instead relying on historic ties between the countries. Something which comes as no surprise to many of us. It comes at a crucial time – after all Brexit is around the corner for the UK and in order to get through it, Britain will have to start putting its international relationships front and centre.
There is no doubt that the relationship between India and the UK is a deep one; we connect in so many spheres – from high-powered boardrooms to friendly clashes on the cricket ground. And whilst it’s important to draw on our historic past as a refence point, it’s to the future we must turn our attention to, and that is what UK-India Week 2019 is really about. This is not just a week full of events, but it’s the time that some of the most influential and political figures from both countries come together to make a statement about the future of the two countries. A future which is very promising as long as the UK takes this information on board and steps up its game.
This year, the statement we are making is a powerful one, with Jeremy Hunt whilst in full flow of his leadership bid taking the time to endorse the week by saying: “It is clear from the wealth of topics and debates taking place across UK-India Week that the partnership between these two great nations will continue to develop and grow”. Not only that, but on India Day we heard from the UK Cabinet Minister Amber Rudd about her hopes for the “steadfast” friendship between the two countries to get far more ambitious on the UK’s part. Later in the day, UK Secretary of State for Home Affairs Sajid Javid took to the stage alongside Indian High Commissioner to the UK Ruchi Ghanashyam to celebrate the impact made by women in the bilateral relationship during the release of the first all-female ‘100 Most Influential People in UK-India Relations’.
UK-India Week’s cornerstone event is the India Inc. Leaders’ Summit – between 25 and 27 June – at Latimer House in the Buckinghamshire countryside. This two-day exchange of enterprise, innovation and dialogue will convene international business leaders, change-makers and entrepreneurs alongside policymakers to enhance collaboration between the two countries. With innovation at its heart and experts across a range of sectors, the summit’s many sessions, keynotes and forums will explore critical and emerging themes in the UK-India relationship on the global stage – it provides the perfect place for us to have the conversations about the future of the relationship and how we can boost each other going forward.
Among some the numerous exchanges planned – Britain’s prominent Conservative Party MP Priti Patel and Dr Vijay Chauthaiwale, head of the BJP’s Foreign Affairs Department, will speak about the Diaspora; Catherine McGuiness, Policy Chair, City of London, will sit down in conversation with Ram Madhav, BJP’s National General Secretary; and Crispin Simon, UK Trade Commissioner for South Asia based in India, will discuss the new markets and trends driving India’s global aspirations. There will also be keynotes from Dr Shashi Tharoor, Chair of the Indian Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee; former CIA chief General David Petraeus; and Dr Rajiv Kumar, Vice-Chair of Niti Aayog, among others.
Manufacturing giant Bharat Forge chief Baba Kalyani and software services giant Infosys Presidents Ravi Kumar and Mohit Joshi will be at hand to give insights into India’s biggest sector focusses vis-à-vis the UK relationship.
UK-India Week will close with a glittering UK-Indian Awards ceremony, celebrating individuals and businesses who have truly made an impact in strengthening the ties between the countries.
The statement that we make across this week will be one of a strong partnership. As the UK moves forward into its uncertain future, India can be a reliable friend but only if the partnership is struck on positive terms. When Brexit happens and the UK needs new trade deals, India should be on top of the list with proactive and timely moves on Britain’s end. The pendulum of influence is shifting and as the UK parliamentary report warns, the UK is falling behind in the global race to engage with a rising India.
UK-India Week 2019 is an ideal opportunity to address this imbalance and bring the relationship back in sharp focus where it belongs.
Manoj Ladwa is the founder of UK-India Week.