Priti Patel MP, Prime Minister’s Indian Diaspora Champion and Employment Minister, says strong Indo-UK relation will fuel stability and economic growth beneficial to both the nations
“Indian diaspora remain a cornerstone in helping the UK-India relationship flourish and reach its full potential. As the British Employment Minister, every day I see the rich contributions the 1.5 million strong Indian community make to the UK’s economy, society and identity and how they are making the most of opportunities”
Republic Day is a momentous occasion, where we celebrate the day on which the Indian constitution came into force, giving the people of India the power to govern them-selves and determine their own future. Today is a great opportunity to reflect on our hard work, success and achievements so far and look back at the past year, which has been particularly significant for the UK-India relationship.
The historic partnership between our two nations continues to grow from strength to strength, supported by the natural ties between our people. The strength of our bond was highlighted during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s landmark visit to the UK in November – the first visit by an Indian Prime Minister in almost a decade.
The visit provided a genuine opportunity for our countries to come together to deepen our existing links in business, trade, education, defence, security, culture and much more. It showcased the successful collaboration between the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy, and truly marked a new era in our relationship.
I was therefore delighted to visit India at the start of the year, to discuss how best to build on this progress.
Starting my trip in Ahmedabad brought back memories of the previous visits I have made as the Prime Minister’s Indian Diaspora Champion – a role that was the first of its type and unique anywhere in the world.
Nowhere are the natural people-to-people ties between the UK and India more apparent, reflected in the 1.5million British Indian diaspora, almost half of whom hail from Gujarat.
Whilst there, I had the pleasure of opening the British Deputy High Commission in Ahmedabad, making India home to the UK’s largest diplomatic mission in the world; a clear demonstration of Prime Minister Cameron’s commitment to India and its people.
During my trip, I had the honour of meeting many members of the Indian community and seeing first-hand the vast contribution they are making in all walks of life.
The 14th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (PBD) – hosted by Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi – was a fantastic celebration of the success, talent and ambitions of the Indian community across the world. It was a great privilege to speak to diaspora groups from all corners of the globe at the PBD, who participated through video conference links from Dubai, Singapore, Mauritius, Kuala Lumpur and my own hometown of London.
As the British Employment Minister, every day I see the rich contributions the 1.5 million strong Indian community make to the UK’s economy, society and identity and how they are making the most of opportunities – with the employment rate for this group reaching a record high last year in Britain.
In New Delhi, I met young students at a UK-funded Teach India school who were learning English to boost their skills and employability. It made me proud to hear about their ambitions and aspirations, and to see first hand Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Skill India in action. In every walk of life, UK-India cooperation is creating opportunities and preparing young Indians everywhere for the 21st Century.
This is rooted in our Governments’ shared values: whoever you are, if you work hard and get on, we will be on your side.
The strong business and employment links between our two great nations are a vibrant illustration of this. Over 100,000 people from the Indian community run their own businesses in the UK and over 90,000 people in India work for UK companies.
I had the privilege of meeting some of these businessmen and women in each of the cities I visited. We discussed the integral role the UK can play in boosting economic development, the skills and expertise we have to offer, and opportunities for further investment rooted in the ease of doing business. I heard from Astral Poly Technik – a leading piping and plumbing company in Gujarat – that is moving its manufacturing to West Yorkshire, while Apollo Hospitals are partnering with British company Holland and Barrett to deliver health and herbal products in New Delhi.
The UK is truly the country of choice for Indian companies. I represented the UK at the Bengal Global Business Summit in Kolkata, during which we celebrated the strengthening trade and investment links, following on from the significant £9bn commercial deals agreed during Prime Minister Modi’s visit to the UK.
There is a deepening collaboration between the UK and West Bengal, as seen during the Chief Minister’s visit to the UK last year where we agreed 25 MoUs to deliver economic prosperity for both our countries. New British businesses are entering the Bengal market, whilst other companies are strengthening their existing presence in the state. The UK facilities management company OCS now employs more than 900 people in West Bengal.
We are committed to developing this connection even further, as reflected during the UK-India Economic and Financial Dialogue that took place in London this month.
Not only are we building economic links and sharing business expertise, we are also leading the world in tackling issues of great international importance such as climate change. I was delighted to be at the launch of a roadmap to create a low-carbon and climate resilient Kolkata. This is a huge step forward for the future and shows how the UK and India are working together to promote sustainable growth.
Today, is an opportunity for the global Indian community to unite and celebrate our vibrant culture, heritage and aspirations. The Indian diaspora remain a cornerstone in helping the UK-India relationship flourish and reach its full potential.
Our two great nations are bound by a shared history, and by strengthening that partnership, India and the UK will secure a bright and prosperous future for all our people.