Britain and India will be the “energetic champions” of free trade to boost small businesses, UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab said on Friday (10)as he pitched the two nations as leaders in tackling challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
Raab acknowledged India’s help at the height of the coronavirus pandemic with “vital supplies of paracetamol”.
“Britain and India will be energetic champions of free trade, to boost small businesses, to cut the cost of living for consumers and to create the jobs of the future,” said Raab.
“As leaders in the international COVID-19 response, the UK and India also co-authored the G20 Action Plan, providing an immediate package of $200 billion of global support to the most vulnerable countries around the world.
“A vaccine created by British scientists and manufactured in India, if successful in clinical trials, will reach one billion people across the developing world, thanks to Oxford University and India’s Serum Institute,” he said.
The UK has committed £313 million to research and development to support the development of a possible vaccine to COVID-19, and British pharma giant AstraZeneca is leading the development work with Oxford University and the Serum Institute of India.
The UK foreign office said the vaccine tie-up builds on the already “thriving” science and technology collaboration between the UK and India, which has seen joint research and innovation spending increase from 1 million pounds in 2008 to over £400 million by 2021.
Health secretary Matt Hancock described India as a “tech powerhouse” and also hailed the contribution of Indian professionals to the state-funded National Health Service (NHS).
He revealed latest government figures that show that India is the second- highest in terms of countries from around the world from which people have come to work in the NHS.
Hancock said: “Prime minister Modi has called India the pharmacy of the world, and it’s true.”
“Around 40 per cent of UK medicines have some parts of their manufacturing in India.”
Lord Tariq Ahmad, minister of state for South Asia and the Commonwealth said: “There are few countries that share the people-to-people connections as the UK and India. This was demonstrated earlier this year when we repatriated more than 15,000 British people from India – the largest repatriation operation from a single country since the Second World War.
“As we adjust to the new post-COVID world in the coming months, I know that these people-to-people links will help future generations to build back better. The Living Bridge between our countries – on show at India Global Week – will grow back stronger.”