“I do think we need to look forward, not backward and do think that from time-to-time resetting is the right approach,” said Sir Keir Starmer, the Leader of the UK Opposition, as he addressed the India Global Forum’s (IGF) UK-India Week at the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London this week.
“I have a clear message for you all today: this is a changed Labour Party. Across the board, we’ve embraced the power of enterprise… and this means that we see the Indian community for the success story they are in 21st century Britain,” he said.
“What my Labour government will seek with India is a relationship based on our shared values of democracy and aspiration. That will seek a free trade agreement, we share that ambition, but also a new strategic partnership for global security, climate security, economic security. This is the essential truth of the world we live in,” he noted.
Besides his vision for forward-looking relations with India “shining as the world’s biggest democracy”, the Opposition Leader also had a clear message for the British Indian electorate to vote for “a new start with Labour”.
He, however, did graciously acknowledge the historic fact of Rishi Sunak as the country’s first Prime Minister of Indian heritage: “Don’t get me wrong, I want to take his job, but that achievement is something nobody can take and it’s something India can be proud about as well.”
During a fireside chat with IGF host Edie Lush, Sir Keir specially thanked the Indian community in the UK for its contributions to the National Health Service (NHS) and also covered a broad range of topics, from artificial intelligence (AI) and the role of ChatGPT to perceptions of the Empire and return of the Koh-i-Noor diamond – a question that evoked wide applause from the gathering.
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“We used the word reset before, this is part of what I mean by resetting the relationship, which is recognising where we are now rather than defining ourselves by the past,” said the Labour Leader.
Welcoming him to the IGF stage, Founder and Chairman Manoj Ladwa said: “Whilst British politicians will vigorously seek out every vote, the relationship with India is now of national strategic importance. We cannot and must not allow it to be held hostage to the vagaries of domestic politics.
“There are many in this room who work relentlessly to ensure that this partnership serves all of our people, and is always driven with positivity, ambition, and purpose. It is a journey that many of us been travelling all our lives. Sir Keir, I invite you, on behalf of everyone here, to also join our journey.”
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The start of UK-India Week 2023 encompassed a range of sessions from ‘AI vs Climate – The Bigger Threat to Humanity?’ to an in-conversation between the High Commissioners of India and the UK coming together to discuss the UK-India partnership.