LAST week I travelled to India on one of my first visits as the UK’s new secretary of state for international development.
I took with me a simple message: now is the time for our two great nations to deliver on an ambitious, strategic UK-India partnership that is fully equipped for the 21st century.
The UK and India already enjoy a long-standing friendship, which is anchored in our shared history, our commercial and diplomatic ties, and most of all, our exceptional people to people links. We are natural partners, as the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s largest democracy.
Prime minister Narendra Modi’s historic visit to Britain last year marked a new era in the UK-India relationship. It provided a genuine opportunity for our two nations to come together to deepen our existing bonds in business, education, defence, security, culture and much more.
The launch earlier this month of the first rupee denominated bond in London is another example of the close and growing economic cooperation between the UK and India.
We now need to build on this momentum and seize the opportunity to deliver a more prosperous future for our countries. In particular, I believe that with Britain’s decision to leave the EU, there is an even greater opportunity to forge a deeper, wider, stronger partnership with India.
India today is one of the world’s most remarkable and resilient countries; driven by the spirit of its people and the power of its global vision. Home to over a billion people, India is projected to become the world’s third largest economy by 2050; rapid growth over the last 20 years has helped lift 133 million people out of poverty.
There is further to go but India is proving that with its own resources and strong commitment, it can finish the job of ending extreme poverty in a generation. This goal can only be realised through faster, sustainable, job-creating growth that benefits the whole of India.
Modi has set out a powerful vision for achieving this; including building 100 smart cities, increasing the skills of 500 million young people and providing around-the clock electricity for all.
Now, more than ever before, the UK is excited about India’s development, its dynamism, potential and the opportunity around its renewed economic growth and prosperity.
While in Delhi, I met Modi, government ministers and a wealth of UK and Indian business, industry and investment representatives. I set out how the UK, with our investment and our expertise, can be a key partner in turning Modi’s ambitious vision for India into reality.
The UK’s relationship with India is, rightly, evolving. With India’s ability to fund its own development, the UK no longer provides traditional financial aid but, instead, focuses support on prosperity, technical assistance and sharing skills and expertise which benefits the UK too.
I made it clear that Britain is open for business and we will share our expertise in finance, infrastructure, governance and security to strengthen urban development in India by helping to plan, design and build smart cities.
I also announced new UK support for India’s economic development. This included two venture funds and equity investments in innovative businesses, which will help two million more people across the country access the finance they need to get jobs, start businesses and support their families.
I’m clear that in today’s changing and very challenging world, we should stand shoulder to shoulder. We are two outward-looking nations on the world stage and can work together to tackle the great global challenges of our age: extreme poverty, migration, terrorism, disease.
On Independence Day last week (August 15), many of us celebrated the achievements of our 1.5 million Indian diaspora community in the UK. For me, it’s these ties between our people, the invisible glue that binds us together, and our shared values, that will deliver the strategic UK-India partnership that is needed for the 21st century.
We are two great nations, with a shared history and one glorious future.