The British government needs to better realise how to develop a fruitful relationship with India

India is now one of the most largest, lucrative markets & powerful nations on the globe. Hence for foreign investors and nations they now attract attention globally. So, any major change across the globe, be it political or economic, is bound to have an impact on India too. Brexit of course is one such an issue.

If we, as in Britain, are looking to develop our trade with nations like India but are not treating India as equals in any relationship then we are making a grave error. The India of today is confident, looking to develop equal relationships with trading partners and multi national in its approach. Historically Britain always provided a gateway to the European Union. Many Indian businesses have their offices in Britain so they can avail benefits and continue to remain a part of the EU. But with Brexit, this benefit will be taken away and may result in companies relocating their business set ups to other places.

A few examples of how the current British government does not appear to understand how to develop a long lasting fruitful relationship with India, is by stopping Indian students from studying here, stopping Indian restaurants from bringing specialist chefs over for their restaurants, making it harder for families to be reunited due to stringent visa rules on Indian nationals. How possibly can you on one hand look to want to develop trade between nations such as India but not welcome Indians to the UK.

Already trade between India and the UK has been affected since the Brexit vote – the former Secretary General of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Dr Alwyn Didar Singh told The Guardian  “The EU is India’s largest trading partner […] but exports from the UK to India have been declining.” He added: “Now, exports from India to the UK will also decline because you’ve lost 18 per cent of your pound’s value. So if I’m sending something to the UK and getting a lower return on it, I’m going to have a think about that. It’s a double hit.” He also stressed what I feel is so ambiguous about the entire approach of the Government – their lack of clarity on international trade deals, which Dr Singh appears to feel too “In uncertainty, nobody takes an investment decision”.

Lord Billimoria and the Vice Chancellor of Sheffield University Sir Keith Burnett have been incredibly critical of the recent trade delegation to India which they also went on. Sir Keith writes that he felt ‘truly ashamed’ by the entire trip, where he said in a blog in the Times Higher Education ‘Indians who studied in the UK say we don’t act as if we are good friends any more. They say we want their money and business but are not willing to teach their children, even if they pay full whack’. He points to the figures that there has been a 50% drop in the number of Indians studying in the UK since 2010. So all in all there is no clear plan in particularly in relation to building trade deals with countries such as India. Trade delegations or trips mean nothing when the signals you are giving to the members of those communities living in the UK are the opposite. It really is hypocritical – maybe we should wake up and smell the coffee?

All of this shows a clear unwillingness to engage with countries such as India both at grass root levels and understand what it is they want to see in a post brexit UK. If Britain wants to truly engage with India – it must do so on a level playing field and try and understand the growing middle classes of a nation that is no longer the nation that Britain once governed. Far from it, it is a nation that is an economic powerhouse that can benefit Britain for many decades to come. We must understand this in the UK and look to forge long lasting friendships of equals and not look to patronize a nation of equal intellectuals, entrepreneurs and talented individuals.



Kishan is the Treasurer's Envoy, Vice-President for Race Equality and Vice-Chairman in Business of the Liberal Democrat Party. Kishan is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He is the youngest recipient of the Asian Achievers Gold Award and is a politician, speaker, and international business consultant.

Published Date

October 22, 2018

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