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Missed opportunities: The UK's relationship with India

24 June 2019

The UK is falling behind in the global race to engage with India, says a report from the Foreign Affairs Committee.

India's place in the world is changing fast and the UK government needs to adjust its strategy to fit India's enhanced influence and power; the UK cannot afford to be complacent or rely on historical ties.

The Government must address India's priorities

In Building Bridges: Reawakening UK-India ties, the Committee says that the Government must address India's priorities, facilitate easy movement of people, and support India's efforts to take up its rightful role on the international stage.

There is no excuse for the migration policies that have led the UK to lose ground in attracting Indian students and tourists - who not only contribute to our economy but build lasting bilateral ties. The FCO should ensure that the goal of improving the overall relationship with India is woven into the broader Government migration policy. Something has gone wrong it if it is more difficult for citizens of a strategically important democracy that shares our values, language and history to visit or study in the UK than those of an autocracy such as China, says the Report. 

The Indian Ocean is a vital arena for closer defence and security cooperation with India. The FCO should take care to ensure that stronger economic ties with China are not at the expense of a deeper partnership with India.

As the UK prepares to look beyond the EU for trade opportunities, the Committee recommends that Government should prioritise talks with India and do more to lay the groundwork for an eventual deal. It must ensure that the 'Global Britain' strategy is heard in New Delhi.

India is an essential partner to the UK

The Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat MP, said:

"India is an essential partner to the UK. Our relationship and the living bridge of people who link our nations will only become more important. More than a million people of Indian heritage currently live in the UK.  Our international interests are guided by similar principles: we have strong links through a diaspora, trade, investment, education, tourism and security interests - and as democracies, we share a strong stake in upholding the rule of law.

"Despite these opportunities the UK has failed to give the relationship the attention it deserves. We missed an important symbolic opportunity to issue a full apology on the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and recognise wrongs that also punctuate our shared history. The FCO should work with other departments and the Indian authorities, to find further ways to explore and commemorate UK-Indian history.

As new powers challenge the structure of global trade and dispute resolution, we cannot miss the opportunity to partner with India. Trade, security, a shared commitment to the rules-based international system - these are all factors in our growing and evolving partnership. The Government needs to make sure the UK is making its support for India clear, reawakening the ties between us and building bridges that are made to last."

The Committee's Report is published to coincide with UK-India week, which launches with a dedicated India Day at the Houses of Parliament on Monday 24th June, followed by a Leaders' Summit held over two days in Buckinghamshire.

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