“We should be working together for the benefit of each other, and, in partnership, taking a leadership role in the world”
The U.K. and India already have a strong relationship. We have bilateral ties covering a huge number of areas and we work closely in the many international organisations of which we are both members. India’s largest overseas investment is in the U.K. — Tata Corus — and one of the very largest investments in to India is Vodafone’s from the U.K. My visit to India this week will be an opportunity to build on these links and to take our relationship to a new level.
The world is no longer a place divided into developed and developing countries; east and west; rich and poor. Our challenges and opportunities are becoming increasingly shared. India, for example, now has more billionaires than we do, and we have more than a million people of Indian origin living in the U.K. Governments around the world face more and more of the same issues; and relationships between countries have to change in response.
India is a beacon of democracy and the rule of law in a region that has more than its fair share of problems. But its strengths go beyond the region. India has an increasingly important role in global affairs. Both India and the U.K. agree that the global institutions established in the 1940s and 1950s are now outdated and are not fit for purpose. During my visit, I will give a speech in which I will outline how global institutions must adapt to meet the new global challenges. At the heart of any changes should be an India with a seat at the top table. And I will propose to Prime Minister Singh that we appoint two special representatives to report back to us on how best to take forward the reform agenda.
Part of any global leadership role involves dealing with terrorism. At the last U.K./India summit, we signed up to greater counter-terrorism cooperation. This has already borne fruit. This week I will discuss with Prime Minister Singh how we can take this cooperation forward still further. Neither of our countries are strangers to terrorism, and by sharing our experiences, we can help each other tackle the root causes of terrorism, and, ideally, stop it from happening in the first place.
On my visit, I will be bringing a delegation of senior business leaders, and the heads of some of the U.K.’s top universities. I am keen that we build on the strong ties that already exist in business and education. Although we are one of the top investors in India, I want to see more U.K. companies doing business here, and more Indian companies choosing the U.K. as their global headquarters. There are plenty of success stories: JCB now sells more excavators in India than it does in the U.K. — but I want these success stories to keep on growing in number. This will require partnership. For example, a British bank is keen to set up 100 rural branches in India.
The English language is a huge shared asset and one I believe we can do more to exploit. English language proficiency opens the door to educational and employment opportunity, and we must work increasingly closely together in this area. I welcome the British Council’s new commitments to develop teacher-training capacity with Indian partners, aiming to train 750,000 teachers across India in the next five years.
On education, over 20,000 Indians are currently studying in the U.K. But I believe that by forming links between some of the best institutions in our two countries, we can have far more than that number benefiting from the U.K. education system, we can encourage more U.K. students to come to India to study, and we can increase research collaboration particularly in those subjects like nanotechnology where our countries excel. It is for this reason that both Oxford University and Imperial College London will be coming to India to sign agreements with Indian institutions during the summit.
One urgent challenge facing all countries in the world is climate change. We are facing a catastrophe unless the world acts together. The impacts of rising temperatures and more extreme weather are already being felt in the U.K.; but India faces disastrous consequences. In my discussions with Prime Minister Singh, I will lay out the U.K.’s point of view: climate change is a global problem that requires a global solution, this problem was caused by developed countries, and the weight of responsibility to solve it lies with us. I will also discuss how we can cooperate to build consensus for a global climate deal in 2009. The Bali conference was a good start because all countries agreed to mitigate emissions in varying degrees. The U.K. is doing its bit. We are the first country to put carbon reductions into law — up to 32% by 2020, and 60% by 2050. We are also committed to helping countries like India ensure their growth is climate resilient through building capacity, financing, and technology transfer.
Another very important issue for me is that of development. It has become a cliché that the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) will not be met globally unless they are met in India. It is for this simple reason that I am determined that the U.K. Government will do what it can to work in partnership with the Government of India to address the issues of maternal and child health, gender equality, clean drinking water, access to education, and the other MDGs. We need to establish where the U.K. Government can add value to what India is already doing, either through our expertise and experience, or with financial assistance. And India’s emergence on the international stage means the time is now right to use our combined knowledge and resources to expand this partnership to tackle poverty globally. While India is becoming a global power, we accept that many parts of the country are lagging behind. In Bihar, a shocking 58% of children under three are undernourished. This single State is home to 46 million poor people (or 5% of the world’s poor). That is why DFID is proud to announce a new programme of support in Bihar focusing on health, nutrition and urban development.
So, I come here as a friend of India, and a friend of Prime Minister Singh. I am keen to help showcase some of the best elements of India in the U.K. – which is why I will be visiting two of India’s leading educational institutions and meeting some of India’s top business leaders. And I hope that my discussions with Prime Minister Singh will move the U.K./India relationship forward. We should be working together for the benefit of each other, and, in partnership, taking a leadership role in the world.
(The writer is the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom)