The UK is a very important economic partner of India and whatever the outcome of its plans to leave the European Union (EU), India would seek out opportunities for growth, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on Wednesday.
Addressing a Leaders’ Summit in Buckinghamshire near London, the minister pointed to a drop in the number of Indian students coming to the UK universities as an area that needs “some work” but overall the bilateral relations were on a “solid” ground.
“Brexit or no Brexit, we never say no to anybody who wants to do more business with India,” Jaishankar said via a live video link from his office in New Delhi.
“The UK is a very important economic partner of India. It has been a financial gateway for India and the two countries have a fairly good record of working on the big issues of the day. My own sense is that whatever the domestic choices in the UK, we have to just look for the opportunities,” he said.
The former diplomat appointed the External Affairs Minister following the Narendra Modi government’s re-election last month described the mandate as one that had “exceeded expectations”.
“It was a vote of an aspirational India and an endorsement of the change already underway… There will be new demands coming out of India and not just economic in nature; it will be a more digital India, a more gender-conscious India and an India promoting a sharper start-up culture,” Jaishankar said.
In reference to his foreign policy plans, the minister added that as India’s global interest expands, it will be looking at expanding its global footprint through more diplomatic missions around the world.
His interaction during the summit, which forms part of a series of events as part of an ongoing UK-India Week, was followed by another live video link from New Delhi with Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. He admitted that the recent Indian elections had defied all forecasts but that the Opposition is determined to keep the “government on its toes”.
“The Congress Party was crushed in the elections and is going through a transformation… There will have to be a Congress 2.0,” Tharoor said.
“The Modi government has hit the ground running and I am sure the UK will be high on its agenda once the succession crisis with Theresa May’s exit is resolved,” he said, adding that Britain needs to reassess its expectations from India to ensure its visa policies are fairer towards Indians.
The two-day Leaders’ Summit, organised by UK-based media house India Inc, covered a series of topics across technology and innovation as well as engineering and healthcare in the context of bilateral cooperation through debates and discussions between senior executives and policymakers from both countries.
“India has a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of the digital manufacturing age, and India and the UK have plenty of opportunities to strengthen the symbiotic relationship in this area,” said Baba Kalyani, Chairman and Managing Director of manufacturing major Bharat Forge.
“Many ceilings have been breached in the India-UK relationship and we want to take it to even new heights and breach further ceilings,” said Indian High Commissioner to the UK Ruchi Ghanashyam.
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