Building Bridges: Reawakening UK-India ties Contents

1Introduction

1.India is an essential partner to the UK and will only become more important. A strong bilateral relationship based on a living bridge of people has developed, with shared interests in the security of trade routes and respect for international law—both of which will hinge increasingly on India’s attitude. The two countries have much in common—a diaspora, trade, investment, education and tourism, security interests—and as democratic nation states share a strong stake in upholding the rule of law. As the balance of economic power shifts back to Asia the UK’s strategic interest will increasingly be drawn to partners beyond Europe.

2.However, this relationship is not meeting its full potential. There is increased global competition to engage with India, and the UK is falling behind other countries in its share of the country’s global trade, international students, tourism, and as a defence partner. The countries’ international interests are not always aligned.1

3.The changes underway in an increasingly outward-looking India make this an ideal moment to reassess the bilateral relationship. That is why we launched an inquiry into UK-India relations in July 2018. Our intention was to take stock of the relationship, and to identify how the UK can make the most of it: to ensure that two countries which currently have similar-sized economies can transform a fraught historical relationship into a powerful alliance that benefits both in future. We are grateful to all those who gave evidence to an inquiry that has become all the more relevant following the re-election of Narendra Modi and the prospect that a new Prime Minister will take office here before the end of the summer.2


1 For example, India voted against the UK’s efforts to increase the powers of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) following the Salisbury incident.
Q30 [Rahul Roy-Chaudhury]; FCO (GBI0015), para 67

2 We received more than 30 pieces of written evidence, and held five oral evidence sessions. In October 2018 we sought an overview of the relationship from Sir James Bevan, former UK High Commissioner to India; and Rahul Roy-Chaudhury, Senior Fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). Our second session, in November, took evidence on India’s economy and development issues from Dr Reuben Abraham, CEO and Senior Fellow at the IDFC Institute. This was followed by a session on bilateral trade and investment, with Shishir Bajoria, Chair of the Bajoria Group; Lord Bilimoria, Founder and Chair of Cobra Beer; Dan Mobley, Global Corporate Relations Director at Diageo; and Devie Mohan, co-founder and CEO of Burnmark. Our fourth session considered the broader strategic relationship, with Dr Rudra Chaudhuri, Senior Lecturer at King’s College London and Director of Carnegie India; Ranjan Mathai, former Indian High Commissioner to the UK; and Professor Kate Sullivan de Estrada, Associate Professor in the International Relations of South Asia at the University of Oxford. Finally, in March 2019, we held a session with Rt Hon Mark Field MP, Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO); and Fergus Auld, Head of South Asia Department and India Co-ordinator at the FCO. We were also able to draw on oral and written evidence submitted to our inquiry into China and the International Rules-Based System, and on oral evidence from the Foreign Secretary.

The Committee Chair visited India in November 2018 to take part in commemorations to mark the end of the First World War, hosted by the UK High Commission in New Delhi. Committee Members held a small private roundtable with figures in the UK-India business community in April 2019, hosted by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). We would like to thank the UK High Commission and the CII for their assistance, as well as those who attended the roundtable. We would particularly like to thank Ian Austin MP and Mike Gapes MP, two former Members of the Committee, who took part in evidence sessions held as part of this inquiry and made an important contribution.




Published: 24 June 2019