On the first day his joint visit to India with Chancellor George Osborne, William Hague has made a speech to business, education and civil society representatives in Mumbai.
“I am delighted to be here in India with the Chancellor for my third visit as British Foreign Secretary. There could be no better place to start this trip than here in Mumbai – this thriving city that epitomises India’s diversity, its dynamism and its economic might. I thank you all for being here today,” the Foreign Secretary said.
“Two months ago, the whole world watched as India undertook the largest election in the history of mankind. It is staggering to think that there were as many votes cast in that contest as there were people in the world when the UK sent its first diplomatic envoy to the Mughal court 400 years ago.
The Indian people have given their new government a mandate for change and reform that has transformative potential for India and we believe it opens up bright new prospects for the relationship between our two countries. That is why, as Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the United Kingdom, we are here this week with the biggest delegation yet to meet the new government – as a sign that we want to unleash the vast potential in the strong ties between India and the United Kingdom.
Our countries are committed to the values of democracy and freedom of expression, we are fellow members of the Commonwealth, and our societies are deeply linked: This city was the birthplace of Dadabhai Naoroji, Britain’s first MP of Indian origin, and a powerful advocate for India and an example of currents of ideas and influence that have long flowed between us;
This year, the centenary of the start of WWI, we will be honouring the 1.2 million Indians who served to defend Europe’s freedom so that their courage and sacrifice are not forgotten; And this autumn, we will celebrate the huge contribution made to our national life by the 1.5m British Indians, at the first ever Pravasi Bharatiya Divas event in the UK.
It is because we recognise the immense value of these links that our government has been steadily investing in our relationship with India over the past four years. We have made over fifty Ministerial visits; we have opened new Deputy High Commissions in Chandigarh and Hyderabad making this far and away our largest diplomatic network in any single country; we have introduced same day business visas, launched a new service to return passports while visa decisions are being made; and we have made it easier for British firms to share cutting edge technology with India.
One of the fundamental tenets of our government’s foreign policy has been that we should set our country firmly on the path to far closer ties with countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America over the next twenty years; and on a completely new footing from the past.
We have shifted our global diplomatic network, opened ten new embassies and sent hundreds more diplomats, with stronger language skills, towards the South and the East. We do this because we have put Britain’s prosperity at the heart of our foreign policy and want to strengthen our ties to the world’s most dynamic economies; and because we want to work more closely with a growing circle of nations to tackle the global issues that affect us all.
Our relationship with India stands out for its depth and its future prospects. As our Prime Minister said on his third trip to India last year – this can be a special partnership, one that connects our dynamic economies to create jobs, growth and prosperity but that also reaches much further, that builds even stronger ties between our societies and that helps us work more closely together on the world stage.
We are here this week because your new government’s bold programme of change creates new opportunities to realise that vision. To do so, we want to work more closely together in three areas.
First, we want to be a leading partner as Prime Minister Modi presses ahead with his plans for development and growth benefitting all Indians. We have our own experience of turning around our economy and we want to work with you to accomplish your goals across the board.
We want to connect India with leading British companies that have the skills, expertise and experience to help you achieve the infrastructure projects, the investments in science and innovation, and the improved healthcare your government is planning. I know the Chancellor will address this in much more detail.
Second, we want to strengthen our educational links because we both benefit hugely from the flow of students, researchers, ideas and expertise. That is why the UK has welcomed almost 100,000 students from India over the past five years; why we have set aside £50m under our Newton fund for new joint research to tackle global development challenges; and why we have developed a new programme to send 25,000 young British people to study, volunteer and gain work experience in India over the next five years.
But we are not stopping there. In this the 30th anniversary year of the Chevening Scholarship programme, I am delighted to announce that the UK will quadruple the budget for young people with leadership potential to study at world-class British universities, and mid-career professionals to take specialist courses. Last year we awarded fifty scholarships; next year we will offer 150, making this our largest Chevening scholarship programme anywhere in the world. But not only that, we will also expand our programme of GREAT Awards, adding 130 new grants so that next year 500 Indian students can access generous support to take degrees in the UK.
Let me be clear: there is no limit to the number of qualified Indian students who can study at British universities and no limit to the number that can work in graduate employment.
Third, we want to work more closely together in foreign policy to advance our shared interests and values. In the last few years we have worked closely together during India’s time on the UN Security council and we continue to support a permanent seat on that body for India.
We have strengthened our counter terrorism cooperation to tackle the scourge which took such a terrible toll on this city 6 years ago and which you have shown such fortitude in overcoming.
We have started a valuable dialogue on the vital issue of cyber policy, which we must continue to strengthen. And we have been doing significant work together in Afghanistan to help build peace and prosperity: the UK has helped strengthen the Afghan security forces and India has supported greater regional trade. We both share a vital interest in stability in Afghanistan and the wider region. As ISAF draws down its mission, I hope we can continue to deepen our work together and with Afghanistan’s other neighbours.
Of course, we have different traditions and approaches in foreign policy, which we respect and value. But I firmly believe there is more the UK and India can and should do together in the years ahead not just to advance our shared interests in this region but to tackle global issues that affect us all.
Ten days ago I visited Iraq where ISIL’s assault threatens to establish a new heartland of terrorism in the territory of what should be a wealthy state, and I have been deeply concerned over the kidnapping of more than forty Indian citizens. I am pleased to hear the nurses have now returned to India. I will be discussing this issue with External Affairs Minister Swaraj.
From the interlinked crises of the Middle East to Russia’s illegal actions in Crimea, there are signs the world is becoming systematically less predictable and more unstable. This state of affairs leaves no country untouched and it demands determined and collective action from the widest possible circle of nations.
As the United Kingdom we will continue to do our utmost, using our global diplomatic network, our world-class armed forces and our membership of NATO and the European Union. We want to put those resources to use in closer cooperation with India, which plays a vital role in its region and has huge political, economic and cultural clout. As a friend of India, we think the time has come for that clout to be more strongly felt in an active and values-based approach to world-affairs.
Our two countries’ prosperity depends on global stability, founded in a rules-based international order, and I believe we should use the coming years to build as strong a partnership in foreign policy as we have in other areas.
So, before I pass the floor to my colleague George Osborne to talk about the great prospects for our economic partnership, I want to say that I believe that in every area there is scope for us to do even more together in the years ahead, in support of India’s bold plans for change, and to the benefit of our mutual prosperity and security.
Our relationship is so broad and deep that it is not always obvious when it starts to shift course, but I believe that in the last few years we have set our partnership in a new direction. I hope that in the years to come we can release its full potential.