'Strategic engagement' with India needed: Rob Young
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'Strategic engagement' with India needed: Rob Young

He said UK's Indian diaspora, the largest, most prosperous of major ethnic groups, is influential and innovative in every sphere.

india Updated: Dec 27, 2003 23:22 IST
UK Bureau

Speaking at a meeting organised at the British Council in New Delhi, British High Commissioner to India British Rob Young highlighted the unprecedented level of "intensity and frankness" in the relationship between India and Britain, which he added is now in a "higher gear."

"The end of the Cold War had a liberating effect on international relations. That and the opening up of the Indian economy, and the rapid growth that followed, removed the brakes on our relationship, allowing it to get in to higher gear," he said.

"The intensity and frankness of our dialogue is unprecedented. Practical co-operation between the British and Indian Governments aimed at achieving our common objectives has become a common reflex. Our partnership is a natural and modern one and full of promise." he added.

He informed that UK premier Tony Blair has listed India, together with China and Russia, as key countries with which we need to have a strategic engagement and this is also why the UK has offered unequivocal support for India to take its rightful place on the UN Security Council as a Permanent Member.

Commending the role of Indian immigrants in Britain, Young said that the over 1.3 million British citizens of Indian origin in the UK now play a pivotal role in binding our two countries together. "The Indian community overall is the largest and most prosperous of the major ethnic communities in my country. It is influential, innovative and successful in business, politics and the arts."

During Tony Blair's visit to India in January 2002, he and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee pledged to work together to deepen and strengthen our bilateral co-operation - in the words of the New Delhi Declaration - to help create a better and safer world.

Both India and the United Kingdom have suffered the terrible effects of terrorism at first hand. Young said that terrorism is an attack on the human rights and civil liberties of all people. "We have stepped up our co-operation on countering terrorism and are also working together on a number of regional issues - Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka".

On the Kashmir issue, too, he said, the Indian government's suspicions and criticism regarding UK's position no longer existed. Mutual concern about terrorism, and the need to work for an end to support for cross-border terrorism, have brought our two governments together.

Business ties between the two have also flourished and in the past 10 years, bilateral trade has almost doubled to £5 billion. The UK is India's largest trading partner in Europe and its second largest in the world, the High Commissioner said, with the UK being one of the largest cumulative investors in India.

On the education front, the number of Indian students in the UK is increasing by around 30 per cent every year.

Last April also saw the launch of the Indo-British Parliamentary Forum, a new all-party Indian Parliamentary group with the aim of fostering deeper and more substantial links between our two Parliaments.

Young said: "I am proud that the British Government is collaborating - through DFID - with the Government of India on this important enterprise. We are contributing several tens of millions of pounds to the nationally co-ordinated District Primary Education Project.

But despite the tremendous opportunities India presents, there are certain loopholes, he pointed out. Many businessmen, he said, are still put off India by the problems they see - high external tariffs, cumbersome bureaucratic procedures, low ceilings on foreign participation,rigid laws and a mindset which does not always welcome inward investment with open arms.

"The scene is changing. Many states have single-window investment procedures.FDI caps are being raised. I am confident the Indian Government will continue along the liberalising path.India has everything to gain and nothing to lose from embracing foreign capital."

First Published: Dec 24, 2003 13:43 IST