UK must keep building a modern relationship with India

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The FINANCIAL — Ahead of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit to the UK in November, a new British Council report recommends that the UK  has an excellent opportunity to future-proof its relationship with, and be part of, India’s growth.

The report, India Matters, set out the steps that the UK should take to create a new, mutually beneficial relationship for the next fifty years. 

The report concludes that the UK must continue to increase the time, effort and money it invests in modern India to ensure it remains a key partner for the future, founded on deep appreciation of each other’s contemporary culture rather than shared history alone. The research suggests that young British people need to learn more about India and refresh their view of this growing economic power, which will be one of the countries that will shape the 21st century. 

With countries such as the USA, Germany and France rapidly building their links with India, the British Council details how the UK must keep strengthening our educational and cultural ties to unlock the full potential of the UK–India relationship as India rises to superpower status. 

The research conducted by Ipsos Mori, on behalf of the British Council, has found that:

•30 per cent of the young Indians surveyed reported that they had visited the UK and 22 per cent that they had done business with the UK. 

•In contrast just nine per cent of young people from the UK had visited and only eight per cent had done business with India.

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•While 74 per cent of young Indians surveyed said that they knew ‘a great deal’ or ‘a fair amount’ about the UK, just 21 per cent of young people from the UK said the same about India.

•31 per cent of young Indians surveyed had participated in a programme to increase knowledge of the UK and 36 per cent had attended a UK arts or cultural event, exhibition or performance. 

•Yet when asked the same questions, just four per cent of young Brits had participated in a programme to increase their knowledge of India and only 13 per cent reported that they had attended an arts event or exhibition involving an Indian artist, institution or performer. This perhaps reflects fewer opportunities for young people from the UK to gain direct experience of India.

The British Council’s Director in India, Rob Lynes, said:

“It is clear that India will be one of the most important countries globally of the 21st century. The UK has so much to offer India in supporting its growth, and both countries have so much to gain from working together. This new research demonstrates how through our educational and cultural links, the UK can get ahead of the competition to partner with India. But it’s vital that our next generation recognises modern, digital, urban India and looks for the opportunities to collaborate, otherwise we won’t just miss out, but risk getting left behind.  Prime Minister Modi’s forthcoming visit should help boost knowledge of India amongst the wider British population.”

India is already the third largest economy in the world and, by 2050, is forecast to become the second largest. Predictions show that by 2050, India’s economy could be 30 times larger than it is today. As its economy is transformed, its political, military and cultural power is likely to undergo a similar transformation, leaving India as one of the greatest international powers. As internationally recognised economist and Treasury minister Jim O’Neill has written, India will soon be ‘one of the biggest influences on the world’.

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The British High Commissioner to India, Sir James Bevan KCMG, said:

“In recent years, the UK government has worked to build a stronger, wider and deeper partnership with India. It has invested in strengthening its own relationships and network in India. The whole of the UK family now has the opportunity to build a more effective and joined-up approach in our long term engagement with India. This British Council report is a timely demonstration of how through our cultural and educational links we can reinforce our unique relationship with this great country and future-proof it for the 21st century”.


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