First Parsi to sit in the House of Lords says Britain has failed to maximise its relations with India as trade figures dip

LONDON: Lord Karan Faridoon Bilimoria – the first Zoroastrian Parsi to sit in the House of Lords has said that Britain has failed to maximize its relations with India as trade figures dip.

According to him, Britain’s close cultural ties with India have “so far failed to translate into the scale of economic ties it should”.

In an interview to TOI, Lord Bilimoria who is chancellor of the University of Birmingham and the founding chairman of the UK-India Business Council said that despite the claim by British prime minister David Cameron in 2010 that he would double trade with India by 2014, exports to India last year were £100 million lower than in 2010.

He told TOI “These statistics are nearing shameful. As India’s economic growth trajectory continues, the potential for innovation is great and the importance of partnerships, direct investment, and building bridges become even clearer to Britain”.

He said “Now is the time to celebrate our relationship with India. India has reported 7.5% economic growth year-on-year in the first quarter this year and topped the Baseline Profitability Index in June, proving it is one of the most stable and promising investment destinations in the world”.

“Britain should recognise the direct and positive impact their Independence has had on our nation. What followed independence was a huge influx of Indians and Pakistanis into Britain, who came here to rebuild the British cities, towns and industries after the Second World War had torn Europe apart. Now, over half of all Indian businesses in Europe started here in the UK”.

He added “This means that when Indian PM Narendra Modi visits the UK in autumn this year, his visit will be vastly different from the many foreign prime ministerial visits he has undertaken in his first year in office, and it is a critical opportunity for Britain to demonstrate respect for what Indian Independence has allowed the country to achieve and build the ties that enable businesses large and small to flourish”.

Data shows that last year UK invested $3.2 billion in India, more than any other G20 country and more than Japan ($1.7 billion) and the US (just under $1billion), who are ranked second and third respectively, combined. Aggregating all investment over the last 14 years, the UK still ranks first among the G20 and accounts for around 10% of all investment into India over this period. India is the seventh largest investor in the UK and invests more in the UK than it invests in the rest of the European Union combined.

Lord Bilimoria feels that fast-growing India represents one of the best markets to attract large and small businesses alike, particularly those keen on engaging with India’s proud entrepreneurial spirit and its keen potential for innovation.

“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. For Britain and India, that fundamental relationship is already incredibly strong. India’s Independence Day for Britain, including the increasingly successful 1.5 million Indian diaspora here, is a perfect opportunity, particularly on the eve of Modi’s forthcoming visit, is a perfect time for Britain to resolve that we will significantly up our game with India,” Lord Bilimoria added.

The Indian Diaspora in UK is one of the largest ethnic minority communities in the country equating to approximately 1.8% of the population.

Published on Times of India