India’s External Affairs Minister, Dr S. Jaishankar, who is on an official tour of the UK this week, addressed a packed Westminster Central Hall in London for a Diwali Reception hosted by the High Commission of India in London this week.
The senior Indian Cabinet minister spoke at length about the UK-India relationship, including the hope of finding a “landing point” in the ongoing free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations.
He said: “We are today trying to recreate the relationship between India and the UK because in the last many decades, our two countries have changed profoundly.
“It is important that we prepare a partnership for a contemporary era that will look to explore new convergences, to see if there is an unrealised potential out there to do more.”
Pointing to a “far more multicultural society” that is Britain today, he focussed on the role to be played by the British Indian diaspora as one of the largest in the world – at nearly 1.9 million – in enhancing the bilateral ties.
“Where I see the relationship really flourish is the fact that we have a wonderful diaspora. It is your expectations, your aspirations, your demands at times, which will make us do more, and I can assure you that as we look today at this relationship, it has an enormous promise,” he reflected.
“It is an extremely contributive and prestigious (Indian diaspora) community here. We have 400,000 Indian citizens living in this country. The term living bridge is a good description, doesn’t do full justice perhaps, but in a way it really symbolises the human aspect of the relationship.”
Sharing some salient developments that reflect the pace of change underway in India, Dr Jaishankar began by saying that the reason lies in one word – “Modi” – with reference to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s leadership in executing a series of wide-ranging schemes targeted at the economic growth and wellbeing of society.
He pointed to the “brand enhancement” of India with the recent Chandrayaan space mission and the “enthusiasm with which India has embraced technology”.
“India today is emerging as an important engine of growth as the fastest growing large economy. Its influence, its contribution to the global workplace and as a much more powerful cultural force than it had been in the years before,” shared the minister, calling on the diaspora to highlight the story of this “new India” to the world.
He was joined on stage by UK Foreign Office Minister for South Asia Lord Tariq Ahmad and Indian High Commissioner to the UK Vikram Doraiswami.
“What Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji has talked about as the living bridge, we're not just living it, we're walking it, we're talking it and we are God-willing delivering upon it as well,” said Lord Ahmad in his address.
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