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'Neo-colonialism holds back UK'

Lord Bhattacharyya says UK's attitude to emerging superpowers India and China is harmful.

india Updated: Mar 02, 2006 14:04 IST

Neo-colonial attitudes to emerging superpowers such as India and China are holding back Britain's industry, according to distinguished British Indian academic and innovator Lord Sushanta Kumar Bhattacharyya.

Speaking on the state of the world economy in the House of Lords this week, Lord Bhattacharyya said there was an assumption that Europe would do "the clever stuff" such as research and design while cheap labour would be employed to make products.

Lord Bhattacharyya was appointed as Britain's first Professor in Manufacturing in 1980 when he became founder and director of the renowned Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) at the University of Warwick.

Noting that China and India were producing more graduates than Western countries, he warned: "The world's economic centre of gravity has moved east." The only way to achieve continued success in Britain, he said, was through partnership with China and India.

"The old colonial days of trade following the flag have long gone. The key word is partnership. This requires a far better understanding of these nations and markets than we have shown so far," he said. Lord Bhattacharyya also noted that Britain's share of the Indian market was dwindling.

"A couple of weeks ago I was addressing the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur, which is my alma mater. I first went there 50 years ago. Today it is ranked third in the global league for technology universities. Tell its students that they can only do the manual work.

"Furthermore, what makes us think that we can do without a vibrant manufacturing sector?

"Manufacturing is still a major source of wealth creation and we have to make sure that we are up there with Sweden and Denmark spending money on research and development and innovation," he said.

Terming his speech as "hard-hitting", the Birmingham Post remarked in an editorial titled 'Wake up now': "If Asia is the future, British companies need to get their claws into it quickly. Lord Bhattacharyya's comments are a warning against complacency. The world is changing, and that change will continue.

"Britain has faced similar challenges before. The loss of status and economic power to the US was a shock to the system after the Second World War, but the country recovered.

"The question is whether British industry is to sleepwalk into the coming changes or be prepared to take advantage of them when they come".

First Published: Mar 02, 2006 14:04 IST