Earlier this month the British Government announced that I would visit Gujarat, and meet the Chief Minister and other senior figures in the state. The government statement made clear the purpose of my visit: to discuss a wide range of issues of mutual interest and to explore opportunities for closer cooperation, in line with the British Government’s objective of improving bilateral relations with India.
The statement also stressed that the UK has a broad range of interests in Gujarat. We want to secure justice for the families of the three British nationals who were killed in 2002. We want to support human rights and good governance in the state. We want to provide the best possible support for British nationals who live in, work in or visit Gujarat; and to the many Gujaratis who now make up one of the most successful and dynamic communities in the UK. And, as part of this government’s commitment to strengthen relations with India, we want to ensure that we provide a full and consistent range of services across the whole country, including in Gujarat.
The statement also made clear the view of the UK government that active engagement with Gujarat is the right way to advance the UK’s interests in Gujarat.
What I have done today has been to do exactly what the British Government said I would. I called on the Chief Minister and the Governor. I met the Gujarat State Congress President. I met NGO representatives. And I visited the various representatives of the UK here in Gujarat: our Visa Application Centre, the British Trade Office, the representatives of the British Council, and our Consular Warden who helps look after UK nationals here in Gujarat.
The talks I have had here today have been open, positive and constructive. I am grateful to the government of Gujarat and my other interlocutors for their welcome.
I had a good conversation with the Chief Minister. We talked about the prospects for Gujarat, which are bright, and the role the UK can play in helping ensure that Gujarat continues to thrive. We agreed that there is scope to develop cooperation between the UK and Gujarat across a very broad range of fields, including education, science and innovation, energy and climate change, and trade and investment. We discussed how the British Government can work more closely with the Gujarat authorities to provide the best possible service for British nationals who live in or visit Gujarat. I reaffirmed the British government’s wish to ensure justice for the families of the three British citizens who were killed in the 2002 riots and our commitment to support the judicial process now underway. And we discussed the broader questions of good governance and human rights.
I had equally good conversations with my other interlocutors, in which we covered similar ground.
I was also pleased with what I heard from the representatives of the UK here in Gujarat.
I was impressed by the operations of the UK Visa Application Centre. It is an efficient and professional gateway for the vital people-to-people ties between Gujarat and the UK. The numbers of students, tourists, visitors, entrepreneurs and investors coming to the UK from Gujarat are already high. I hope that they will increase further over the coming years.
I was encouraged by what I heard from the British Trade Office and the State Government on the prospects for deepening trade and investment between the UK and Gujarat. Vibrant Gujarat in January 2013 will be an early opportunity to take this forward. The UK-India Business Council, which represents UK business, will be one of the partner organisations and we expect a large business delegation.
I was pleased to hear from the local representatives of the British Council about the cooperation that already exists between Gujarat and the UK in the fields of education, English language teaching, the arts and culture. Here too there is clearly potential to do more. The British Council will participate in Vibrant Gujarat and will showcase what the UK has to offer.
And I was delighted to meet the British Consular Warden here in Gujarat, and learn about the very substantial number of British citizens who live and work here. They make a huge contribution to Gujarat, just as the hundreds of thousands of Gujaratis in the UK make a huge contribution to Britain.
My visit is in line with the British government’s wish to build a stronger, wider, deeper relationship with India. That means engagement with India’s diverse range of states and communities, on a broad range of issues, to the overall benefit of all our peoples.
To conclude, my visit has confirmed that the UK and Gujarat have a broad range of mutual interests and genuine opportunities for closer co-operation.
The next step is for me to report to my government on this visit. British Ministers will consider in the light of that how best to take forward our relationship with Gujarat.