Forging new London links

CAPITAL CONNECTION: London has attracted the best and brightest talent from India and Pakistan, including to the London School of Economics (inset above)
CAPITAL CONNECTION: London has attracted the best and brightest talent from India and Pakistan, including to the London School of Economics (inset above)


Mayor of London

NEXT week, I will become the first British politi­cian to visit both India and Pakistan on the same trip in recent times.

As someone whose grandparents were born in India, and whose parents moved to London from Pakistan, I feel a deep affinity for the subcontinent and I’m really proud to visit both countries.

The longstanding relationship between Britain and the subcontinent is etched into the landscape of modern London. Thousands of people from both India and Pakistan were among a generation who came here after the Second World War to make a better life for themselves and their families; to start businesses, to help rebuild Britain’s cities and to work in our public services.

Since then, we have been fortunate to attract new waves of talented Indian and Pakistani emi­grants, who have thrived in sectors like tech, fi­nance and science.

The huge contribution of these communities to London’s success over many decades is part of the fibre of our city, and has played a vital role in shap­ing its culture and economy.

The success of London is largely because we have been able to attract such energetic and tal­ented people from around the world. We are a city of immigrants, where 40 per cent of our population was born outside the UK. That is why we value im­migration – we appreciate its importance and we pride ourselves on being one of the most diverse and welcoming cities in the world.

I know many people in London share the anger of Indians and Pakistanis about the British govern­ment’s misguided approach to visas. It is too early to say what sort of immigration system will be in­troduced in the post-Brexit world, but I am lobby­ing as hard as possible to ensure that any future system is fair, flexible and works for London and for Indian and Pakistani nationals who want to work, do business, study or visit our city.

There are more international students in London than any other city in the world. I want more Indi­ans and Pakistanis to be able to follow in the foot­steps of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Bhimrao Ambedkar, as well as Benazir Bhutto, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and countless others who have had the opportunity to study in this country.

It is vital that universities in London are able to attract the next generation of young Indian and Pakistani students, and I will continue to pressure the British government to ensure our immigration system makes this possible.

During my trip, I’m going to be working to grow the links that already exist between London and the great cities of India and Pakistan. As well as family ties, many Londoners of Indian and Pakistani herit­age have businesses – both large and small – that have built up links to the subcontinent.

I want to help these to flourish and to show our counterparts in India and Pakistan that London remains open – open to talent, business, trade, in­vestment, creativity and ideas.

Understandably, many people and businesses in the subcontinent are concerned about Brexit – and what this will mean for how Britain will interact with the rest of the world. My message on the trip will be simple: despite Brexit, London will always be open to the world and open to business, invest­ment and talent from India and Pakistan.

I fully appreciate that many city leaders from around the world are also going to India and Paki­stan to make similar pitches to the one I am making for London. Competition is a good thing – whether you are a cricket team, a Bollywood production, a politician or a big city – and it means we can’t be complacent. But I am confident about London’s core strengths and I am going to make sure this message is heard loud and clear on behalf of all Londoners.

Another reason for my visit is to increase collab­oration between our cities on a range of issues. Over six days, I will be visiting six cities to see how India and Pakistan do things, learn from their expe­riences and maybe look to emulate one or two ide­as back in London. By working together and shar­ing best practice, I believe we can speed up innova­tion, boost economic growth and tackle some of the shared challenges we face today.

So my message to everyone I meet on this visit will be that London will always be a city full of op­portunity and one that embraces people of differ­ent nationalities, faiths and backgrounds. Our cities face many shared challenges and I believe we have an opportunity to forge an ever-closer relationship – with new connections and collaborations that will see us prosper in the decades ahead.

I am looking forward to a fruitful visit.