Celebrating Partnerships – UK in Odisha

Excerpts of the speech by the British Deputy High Commissioner Kolkata, Scott Furssedonn-Wood, at the inauguration of the ‘Celebrating Partnerships – UK in Odisha’ campaign at Bhubaneswar.

Scott  Furssedonn-Wood

Honourable Chief Minister, minister, distinguished guests, ladies & gentlemen

I have the great pleasure and honour of representing the British government in the state of Odisha. It is very good to be back in Bhubaneswar this morning and to welcome you all to the UK in Odisha campaign.

It is a particular pleasure to have the Honourable Chief Minister of Odisha, Mr Naveen Patnaik with us this morning. And I am delighted that we are also joined by the UK Minister of State for International Development, the Rt Hon Desmond Swayne MP. There could be no clearer demonstration of the strength and importance of the UK-Odisha relationship than the presence of you both here this morning.

You will all have noticed the word GREAT, in the film we just showed you, and in the branding of our events this week. It’s all part of something called the GREAT Britain campaign which has, at its core, a pretty simple message. In Britain we are proud of our past, we are confident about our future and we think there are a number of things that make our country GREAT. But we also want to celebrate the GREAT things that we do in partnership with our most valued partners, particularly in India and in important states like Odisha.

This is an important week for us. This week we are celebrating a new era in the United Kingdom’s relationship with the great state of Odisha. This is a state we know well. The British government and the Department of International Development in particular, have been working here for many years. We have always believed in the extraordinary potential of Odisha and I’m delighted to say that our confidence in the state has been borne out by the remarkable progress we have seen here.

Thanks to good governance and comprehensive social and economic development, Odisha’s future is bright. We want to be a partner for the state as it builds that future. We want more talented young people from Odisha to study at the UK’s world class universities. We want more British companies – and I’ve brought 10 GREAT British companies with me this week – to bring their world class products and services to Odisha. We want to share more UK ideas and expertise as Odisha rises to the challenges of urbanisation and of climate change. Above all we want stronger, deeper connections between our people so the partnership between the UK and Odisha shape our shared future for the better.

Over the coming three days we are hosting a series of events in Bhubaneswar that will celebrate the UK Odisha partnership and demonstrate some of the exciting things the UK can offer to Odisha now and in the future.

This afternoon we will host a roundtable discussion between ten British companies in the urban and environmental sectors and representatives of the Odisha government, to discuss the UK offer on sustainable urbanisation. These companies represent the cutting edge of smart urban technologies, master-planning, waste and water management and climate-friendly urban technologies. I am confident that they can play an important part in the growth of Odisha’s cities.

This evening I will host an event that will consider what the future of cities in India should look like. GREAT Conversations is a lecture series that we organise in Eastern India that brings together influential Indian and British thought leaders in conversation on topical issues of shared interest. This evening, at the Xavier Institute of Management, Karuna Gopal, President of the Foundation for Future Cities and British writer and journalist Bee Rowlatt will discuss what makes a city great and how India cities will rise to the challenges of the future.

Tomorrow we’ll be looking in more detail at the particular challenge of climate change. Under the Climate Change Innovation Programme, the UK Department for International Development in partnership with the Minister of Environment Forests & Climate Change, Government of India is organising a seminar to discuss the UK-Odisha partnership on tackling climate change. I am delighted that His Excellency the Governor of Odisha, Mr S C Jamir, has agreed to inaugurate this event.

Climate change is a critical challenge for states like Odisha. Excellent work is going on here already under the leadership of politicians like Mr Kalikesh Singh Deo, who we will hear from shortly. I am proud that the UK is an important partner in this work and am glad that this week will build that partnership further still.

Tomorrow afternoon, at SAI International School, we’ll be talking to several hundred young people about higher education opportunities in the UK. We’ll be telling them about studying at British universities, which consistently rank at the top of all global surveys. We’ll be showing them how a British education is a passport to employability and global mobility. We’ll talk about life as a student in the UK and all that it offers in terms of culture, sport, history, entertainment and the very warm welcome they will receive.

We will also be talking about the UK’s fantastic offer on scholarships and I wanted to say a word about that now. In 2015-16, over £5 million - that’s 50 crore rupees – is available for scholarships for over 600 Indian students to study in the UK. The British Council is offering GREAT scholarships worth over 1.5 million pounds – 15 crore - for more than 400 young people. And Chevening scholarships - which is the UK government’s global scholarship programme, offered in 160 countries, funded by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and partner organisations - will see £2.6 million - that’s 26 crores – available for Indian students in 2015-16.

In fact, the India programme for Chevening is now our biggest in the world. This year we are offering over 130 fully-funded, merit-based scholarships for one year masters in any subject at a recognised UK university for graduates and thematic short-courses at designated UK universities for mid-to-senior level professionals. I want to see more of the most talented young people from Odisha choosing the UK as their destination for study and winning these scholarships to take them there.

As well as cities, business, climate change and education, this week we will also be showcasing:

  • culture – with the screening by the British Council, at locations around Bhubaneswar, of brilliant film versions of the great plays of William Shakespeare, whose 400th death anniversary we are marking this year with a global programme called Shakespeare Lives.

  • sport – for which we are supporting the fantastic sports and educational charity Jungle Crows Foundation - which changes the lives of countless young people in Eastern India and whose founder Paul Walsh was recently honoured by Her Majesty the Queen – in organising an Odisha Rugby World Cup Jamboree. This will see eight teams of Bhubaneswar school girls and boys play their own version of the Rugby World Cup. The actual Rugby World Cup will take place in the United Kingdom in September and October this year.

  • food – we have talented British Chef Shaun Kenworthy here with us this week to cook up some innovative British dishes with an Indian twist, demonstrating the strong ties between our cuisines.

Finally, on Friday afternoon at KIIT University, we will be holding a heat for our India-wide inter-college debating competition, the GREAT Debate, which celebrates the UK and India’s shared culture of vibrant intellectual discussion and debate. This is the third year of the GREAT Debate and the biggest yet, with heats in ten Indian cities. The winning team from the debate in Bhubaneswar on Friday will earn a place in the Grand Finale in Delhi in January where they will compete to win a week-long study tour to the UK.

With these events this week I am confident that we will demonstrate the United Kingdom’s value as a partner for Odisha. We are committed to a relationship between the UK and India that is stronger, wider and deeper. That means the UK-India relationship must be about more than governments talking to governments or about capital cities talking to capital cities. Instead, we need to build connections between people, businesses and institutions across the UK and those across India. It means connecting all the GREAT things the UK has to offer with all the great things that are happening in dynamic states like Odisha.

I firmly believe that in the years ahead Odisha will be celebrated as one of the great success stories of India. That it will be an engine of economic growth and prosperity, fuelled by its rich reserves of natural and human resources. That it will lead the way in sustainable urbanisation at the same time as preserving its priceless cultural and artistic heritage.

As it does all that, I hope the UK will be Odisha’s partner of choice. The friendship between us is strong and deep-rooted. We now have an opportunity to renew and reinvigorate it and ensure it delivers real benefit to us both for many years to come.

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Published 2 September 2015