I was invited to participate in the first Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in London on Friday 17th October.
The Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas (Overseas Indians Day) aims to connect India with its vast Indian Diaspora, bringing their knowledge, expertise and skills together. The Regional Pravasi Bharatiya Divas held on 17th-18th October was the first to be held in London and was organised in collaboration between the Indian Government and the Indian High Commission in the UK. Over 1,000 people attended and it featured discussions on different aspects of India’s relationship with UK and other countries of Europe, including resources, energy, infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, skills and education, languages, women in business and culture.
I was invited to speak in the session entitled 'How can the Diaspora and the Government of India leverage each other's strengths to mutual benefit in the framework of India-UK strategic partnership?’ and spoke about the existing links and collaborations between the UK and India, and how the Indian Diaspora can improve them.
I would like to thank the Indian High Commission for inviting me to participate and also congratulate them for putting together this impressive Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, celebrating the incredible contributions of Indian Overseas Diasporas.
The Pravasi Bharatiya Divas provided a great opportunity to discuss not only the UK’s relationship with India, but also our relationship, as a Diaspora community with our homeland.
You can read my speech below:
I’d first like to start by thanking the organisers for inviting me to participate in this important debate and congratulate them for putting together this impressive Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, celebrating the incredible contributions of Indian Overseas Diasporas.
The Diaspora community in this country can only be described as a linchpin of British Society: it is the largest ethnic minority group in the UK, but most significantly, makes an incredibly vibrant and rich contribution in so many aspects of life in this country.
From politics, business, academics and law, to medicine, charity work and the arts – sectors in which we have many successful representatives here – British Indians have enriched these areas and professions through their hard work, commitment and expertise. It is absolutely clear that the Indian Diaspora has truly helped make Britain great.
The Indian Diaspora not only has an eminent role in this country but has also got very strong roots in India, making the British Indian community a cornerstone of the relationship between the UK and India – a relationship of great importance that we can only hope will continue to become deeper, stronger and more prosperous. We need to focus on what we have achieved in the last 400 years of this partnership, highlighting how far the UK and India have come together and also, more importantly, use the lessons learnt over the last 400 years to take our partnership to the next level.
In the medical profession, we are lucky to have a number of well-qualified, leading doctors and nurses from India who have now settled in the UK; more than 40,000 Indian doctors and consultants work in the NHS, helping the sick and elderly day in, day out.
But beyond this, UK health service providers are currently working in close partnership with Indian stakeholders, saving and improving lives in both countries by exchanging on health policy, skill development and training for healthcare workers, and research and development with a view to providing affordable healthcare. The Wellcome Trust provides one of the schemes which seeks to fund research to deliver safe and effective healthcare products for India at affordable costs.
Better cooperation between the UK and India on healthcare can only help with the standard of both health services; India has provided the UK with some of its best healthcare workers and the collaboration on health innovation needs be intensified to deal with issues relating to continuing and emerging infectious diseases still present in South Asia and the limited access to preventive and curative health services in certain areas.
Education has been one of the keystones of the relationship between India and the UK, since some of the most prominent figures from India, such as Gandhiji, Nehru and Dr Ambedkar studied at some of the UK’s top universities before using their teachings to improve lives in India. There have been huge amounts of young Indians coming to study in the UK but unfortunately the number of Indian students in this country has been declining since the change in the Government’s visa policy and the increased cost in studying in the UK.
As India’s target is to educate the 500 million of its young people who will be coming on to the labour market in the next ten years, it’s so important for both the UK and India to provide top quality education as it vital in building a well-educated and dynamic country. Better links between UK and Indian universities need to be fostered, encouraging partnership between institutions for research, joint degrees and schemes to study abroad. I know that the Governments of both countries have been working on this since 2008 and I can only hope that more will be done to improve these ties, alongside more flexibility to encourage students from India to come to the UK.
Finally and importantly, the business relationship between India and the UK is incredibly valuable; more Indian investment comes to this country than the rest of the EU combined and the UK is Europe’s largest foreign investor into India. There are more than 600 Indian companies investing in the UK, many manufacturing enterprises and other businesses, from local corner-shops to the steel industry create a great wealth of jobs; just the curry industry, with over 9,500 Indian restaurants in the UK, employs 60,000 people.
With India’s economy expanding, there is opportunity for India to look to Britain to see how they can open up their economy to new companies and investors, while Britain needs to look further at specific Indian states so that they may target British business opportunities in India more effectively.
I believe that one of the ways that the Indo-UK business relationship can improve is through infrastructure projects. India needs to invest more in infrastructure, like roads, metros, railways and airports, to compete further on the international stage. As one of the top 10 most attractive countries for infrastructure investment, the UK’s experience and specialism can only benefit India and it should be a focus of future partnerships between the UK and India.
I’d like to finish on a specific point about individual contributions for members of the Indian Diaspora in this country. I’ve seen many of my constituents and members of the wider community, whether first generation or second generation, who have set up businesses, charities and launched projects to contribute to India’s emergence. From philanthropy to establishing company subsidiaries or investing in India, successful members of the Diaspora can play a part in benefitting the India-UK partnership.
As members of the Indian Diaspora in the UK, we should be incredibly proud of our achievements in the UK, but we also still have huge amounts to contribute to our country of origin. And I truly hope that the efforts the respective Governments of the UK and India have made to strengthen their relationship can be replicated by the Diaspora.