India’s consistently high economic growth rate and its lead position in the latest Baseline Profitability Index provide indisputable proof it is a stable, promising investment destination.
The time has never been better for us to celebrate and reinforce the incredibly strong relationship between Britain and India. Yet, despite leading the Global Influence Index, reflecting Britain’s cultural pre-eminence and remarkable ‘soft power’, there has been a certain lack of commitment or drive to capitalise on that power through international trade.
Necessary austerity measures may have taken international relationships off the table temporarily, but long-term projects for our country must continue. As an Indian-born entrepreneur, Britain’s trade relationships with India are particularly important to me – but they should be to the whole country.
It is often said that for economic co-operation to be successful, mutual cultural understanding is paramount. British and Indian cultures have influenced each other enormously over the last 400 years. In fact this year, the 200th Anniversary of the Gurkha’s service to Britain and India, serves as an enduring reminder of Britain’s long-standing ties to South Asia.
I grew up amongst the Gurkhas - my late father Lt Gen FM Bilimoria was commissioned into the 5th Gurkha Rifles Frontier Force – so they are a central part of my past, but they are an essential part of Britain’s national history too.
Gurkhas have been fighting alongside Britain for centuries, suffering the loss of 43,000 of their number in the two World Wars and accumulating 13 Victoria Crosses for supreme valour defending the country. My father’s battalion was awarded three Victoria Crosses in one campaign in the Second World War, with two of these being awarded in a single day.
Britain’s reaction to those two terrible and tragic earthquakes in Nepal is testament to our close ties to the Gurkha community.
Despite the claim by David Cameron in 2010 that he would double trade with India by 2014, we still trade more with Belgium than with India.
We are, however, moving in the right direction. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the UK this November is an important and symbolic step forwards, and signifies a renewed urgency to strengthen our historic relationship, and mark the start of a concerted effort to vastly expand our trading links with the region.
Britain’s widespread international influences and relationships are an untapped resource - particularly these deep-rooted cultural links which represent an enormous opportunity for British companies to expand into the world’s fastest growing economies.