“As a boy, Narendra Modi sold tea at his father’s tea stall at a railway station in Gujarat. Today he is one of the most powerful people on this planet as Prime Minister of India.
“Today India has the presidency of the G20. Today India has a vision to become, in the next 25 years, the second-largest economy in the world with a GDP of $32 billion. The Indian express has left the station. It is now the fastest train in the world—the fastest-growing major economy in the world. The UK must be its closest and most trusted friend and partner in the decades ahead.”
This was how Lord Karan Bilimoria rounded off his submission in the House of Lords, addressing a debate entitled “The Importance of the Relationship Between the United Kingdom and India”.
Baroness Sandy Verma tabled the debate to flag how the “huge resource” of the British Indian diaspora has been underused in connectivity and in gaining a wider understanding of the different nuances of engagement with India.
As President of the new India (Trade and Investment) All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), which is backed by the British Indian think tank 1928 Institute as its secretariat, Baroness Verma revealed that the cross-party group is scheduled to take its first delegation to India in April.
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She said: “We believe that the group will provide a strong Parliament-wide link that will not just strengthen political engagement and understanding but will build on what will become the free trade agreement (FTA) for us to make this century one of strong foundations, strong collaborations and new partnerships.
“As a British Indian, I have lived here all my life. The strength of our nations are the people. They build relationships and protect them. We have a huge opportunity to share the global growth story, but we have to recognise that how we narrate that dialogue and how we view our partnerships matters in what we are able to achieve.”
Lord Bilimoria, Chair of the APPG, also called on UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to lead a large business delegation to India “as soon as possible”.
In response to the debate on behalf of the UK government, UK Foreign Office Minister for South Asia Lord Tariq Ahmad described India as central to British foreign policy. He also offered updates on the “well advanced” UK-India FTA negotiations.
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He said: “As one of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies, India is a key partner to the UK… We are also looking at lowering non-tariff barriers on medical devices to benefit British exporters, and are well advanced in our negotiations for an ambitious and balanced free trade agreement,” he said.
“A strong trade deal with India could boost the UK economy by billions of pounds over the long term, helping families across the country. Cutting red tape and high tariffs could also make it easier and cheaper for UK companies to sell in India, driving growth and supporting jobs.”