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Focus on economic ties reiterated at Republic Day event

Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Ruchi Ghanashyam unfurls the Indian Tricolour.
Indian High Commissioner to the UK, Ruchi Ghanashyam unfurls the Indian Tricolour.

INDIA’S high commissioner to the UK, Ruchi Ghanashyam, described Britain as a “natural partner” as she paid tribute to bilateral ties in her Republic Day speech in London on Monday (27).

Addressing guests at an annual reception to mark the day that independent India adopted its constitution, the envoy noted that bilateral trade was more than £20 billion.

She pointed out: “Our economic relationship is one of the cornerstones of our strategic partnership.” Britain remains among the leading major investor countries in India, Ghanashyam said, adding that Indian companies operating in the UK account for a combined turnover of more than £48bn.

“They also pay over £680 million as corporate taxes,” she said.

As Britain leaves the EU on Friday (31), the UK is looking to strike trade deals with countries outside the EU, with India being one among them.

Next Tuesday (4), the Indian High Commission is set to launch a report highlighting the economic contributions made by companies owned by British Indians in the UK, Ghanashyam said. Indian firms combined “employ 105,000 people within the UK”, she added.

“In my travels across the UK and my engagements with the diaspora, I am delighted to find this symbiotic relationship is further cemented by what India’s prime minister Narendra Modi calls the living bridge of over 1.5 million people constituting the Indian diaspora which plays a prominent role in bringing the two countries closer.

“Indian festivals are also celebrated with the same fervour in the UK as in India,” she said.

Conservative party chairman James Cleverly, Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle and Foreign and Commonwealth Office minister Lord Tariq Ahmad were among high-profile guests who addressed the reception at Guildhall in central London.

Among those in the audience were prominent politicians including MPs Barry Gardiner and Virendra Sharma, business leaders Lord Swraj Paul and Lord Rami Ranger, community leaders as well as members of the armed forces.

In her speech, Ghanashyam noted that “Britain and India share not only progressive democracies, but also values of universal peace and rule of law.

“We face similar challenges, ranging from terrorism to climate change, that can only be tackled collectively by us, and the world at large. The UK enjoys a close, cordial and wide-ranging strategic partnership. India considers the UK to be a natural partner.”

Outlining the various programmes undertaken by the Indian government, she highlighted climate change initiatives and co-operation in international disaster relief operations.

There was also a special mention for two MPs- Conservative Bob Blackman and Labour’s Gardiner- who were both honoured with the Padma Shri, one of India’s highest civilian awards, conferred upon them on Republic Day (26).

“India deeply appreciates and values their contributions to strengthening the friendship between our two countries,” Ghanashyam said.

Meanwhile, foreign and commonwealth office minister Lord Tariq Ahmad told guests there were huge opportunities for India and Britain in the areas of climate change, trade, healthcare, education and people-to-people links.

“It’s a particular priority for me because I happen to be proudly the minister responsible for our bilateral relations with India,” Lord Ahmad said.

“The relationship with India as a partner across many areas is more important than ever.” The minister quoted Mahatma Gandhi – ‘the best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others’ – as he noted that it was especially relevant to “those of us who govern”.

“Those words are credible as they were at the time of the foundation of the constitution of India on January 26, 1950. They ring true today as well,” Lord Ahmad said.