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'There are close links between Britain and Gujarat'

Speech by the British High Commissioner to India Sir James Bevan KCMG at the inaugural session of the Vibrant Gujarat Global Investors Summit.

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Honourable Chief Minister, other distinguished guests, friends and colleagues

My message today is simple. Britain and Gujarat are natural partners. And together we can do great things.

There are close links between Britain and Gujarat. We have been trading with each other for centuries. The Gujarati diaspora in the UK is now one of the largest in the world. Indeed the largest Gujarati population outside of the State of Gujarat is in the city of Leicester in England. The city of Leicester is the city where I was born. So I feel in a very real sense that I too am in some way a son of Gujarat.

The UK and Gujarat have a lot in common. We are roughly the same size by area. We have roughly the same size population. We are both outward looking, entrepreneurial cultures. We are both proud of our past and confident of our future. There’s a natural fit between our economies, a thriving relationship between our peoples, and great scope for a stronger partnership. I’m here today to take that partnership forward.

Our business links are already strong. Many leading UK companies are active in Gujarat today, including Shell, British Gas, Formica and Mott McDonald. Many Gujarati companies have successful operations in the UK, in areas like renewable energy, engineering and pharmaceuticals. Several others have their European HQs there. And more and more Gujarati investment is coming to Britain.

But our commercial partnership can and should be stronger, wider and deeper. The natural fit between our economies offers huge opportunities.

As Gujarat continues on its path of successful development, it wants infrastructure, energy, healthcare, high technology, advanced manufacturing, professional services. The UK is a world leader in those and other areas; and many of the leading UK companies in these fields are represented here today at Vibrant Gujarat. And as the UK builds a modern, successful 21st century economy, we want things too. We want talent, innovation, and investment, and Gujarat is renowned across the world for all three. So there is a strong basis for a much deeper commercial partnership between us.

That’s why I am proud to be making my first visit to Vibrant Gujarat, and I am proud to be leading the largest delegation of UK businesses ever to come to Gujarat. I am here today with around 50 British companies with over 70 delegates, together with the Chair of the UK India Business Council, Patricia Hewitt, a highly respected former Cabinet Minister of the British government.

We look forward to seeing you all at our Pavilion in the International Hall. You can’t miss it. In letters several feet high, it says Britain Is Great. We like to keep our messaging simple.

But the partnership Britain wants to build with Gujarat goes well beyond trade and investment.

Education: the UK has some of the best universities in the world. Gujarat wants a highly educated population and has some world class educational institutions of its own. So let’s pursue more exchanges of students and faculty, more collaboration on skills training, and more research partnerships. The British Council stand in the Education Hall here will show what the UK has to offer.

Science and innovation: the UK is a world leader and so is Gujarat - let’s do more together. Renewable energy: both Gujarat and Britain are pioneering innovative solutions that will drive green growth - let’s share our experiences. And people to people links: I want to see more Gujaratis coming to the UK to visit, study, work and do business; and more British people coming here to Gujarat.

So Britain offers Gujarat a partnership, a partnership based on shared interests, historic ties and mutual respect.

We offer one other thing too: trust. We believe that the Great British brand is one in which Gujaratis and indeed every Indian can place their trust. Trust in our people, who stand by their word and take pride in their integrity. Trust in our products, the world-class goods and services which the UK offers. And trust in our partnership, which we are confident will bring benefit to all of our peoples.

To conclude: Britain is back. Gujarat is great and so is Britain. Let’s work together.

Published 11 January 2013