Britain must “double down” on its economic and diplomatic links with India after Brexit, a government minister said.
Ranil Jayawardena, UK minister for international trade, said Britain’s divergence from Europe would provide “fantastic opportunities for growth” between the two countries, as they were “ideal partners”.
Mr Jayawardena was speaking at the virtual event – Post-Brexit UK and the future of the G7: the importance of UK-India relations – hosted by the Centre for Policy Studies on Monday.
During the talk, he revealed bilateral trade between the countries reached £24 billion ($33bn) in 2019-2020, an increase of almost 10 per cent from the previous year.
Businesses in both countries have successfully collaborated in the production of millions of coronavirus vaccines, he said. Tech start-ups in the UK, he said, had been invigorated by the stream of IT talent coming from India.
“The economic symbiosis that our nations share is profound, with entrepreneurs and innovators from Birmingham to Bombay, Cardiff, to Calcutta, Glasgow all pushing the boundaries in the cutting edge industries that are changing the way that we live and work across our planet,” he said.
Mr Jayawardena said "deeper, stronger bonds" would benefit people of both the countries.
“That is something that we must double down on as we seek to bounce back from coronavirus.”
Britain would use the G7 the G20 and WTO forums to champion open trade between the two countries, while the Cop26 climate conference would be the ideal place to discuss their shared climate ambitions.
“The truly global Britain that we are seeking to create will be the greatest friends and the most committed of allies for all our democratic partners on the international stage.”
Participants at the event, which included politicians and Indian business leaders in the UK, said close historic ties meant that the two countries were natural partners, particularly on the international stage.
Baroness Sandip Verma, former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for International Development, said Britain had taken its 'foot off the gas' in its relations from India.
However, she said, Prime Minster Boris Johnson viewed the partnership as "vital and critical to both our nations" particularly after Brexit.
“The size and the growth of India's marketplace is a huge opportunity for so many businesses in the UK. There's an abundance of available talent in India. So there's no doubt in my mind that we really need to put every effort and much more into making sure that this particular relationship is built at a pace.”
Lord Rami Ranger, the founder of FMCG distributor Sun Mark, said, India as a democracy was a better partner for Britain than China, which does not promote democracy in the region.
Also in attendance was Lord Karan Bilimoria, the chairman of Cobra Beer, who said India and Britain shared a natural synergy.
“We've got 842 Indian companies in the UK, with combined revenues of almost £50 billion, employing over 100,000 people," he said.
"We've got over 400 UK companies in India employing 430,000 people directly. We are doing a lot, but we could do a lot more.”